Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Lena Bottenfield

I was born in Brooklyn, NY but I moved to Gaithersburg, MD at the age of 8, which is in Montgomery County. During my high school years I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go and I didn’t really get much guidance about applying for schools. Life sort of intercepted my decisions about college when I got pregnant during my senior year of high school. I graduated on time but I took the first semester of college off to stay home with my daughter. I decided that the easiest and most convenient choice for me would be Montgomery College. I graduated from there with my sights on the University of Maryland. I saw the University of Maryland as my ultimate goal. It was a prestigious 4-year university with a large student population. I really wanted to get as much of a college experience as I could, even though I could never really do so because of my responsibilities at home.

When I first arrived to the University of Maryland I declared a History major, but I took my first sociology course that first semester. I hadn’t really taken a college level sociology course and the next semester I took two more. The class that ultimately drove me to change my major was Professor Chepp’s Sociology of Gender course. That first week of class I was in the undergrad office getting the forms necessary to change my major. I fell in love with sociology because I can really connect with what it’s all about. I love learning about contemporary issues that affect me and the larger community right now. Until I took sociology, I never had an avenue to express the social disparity and inequality that still plagues our society and world today on an intellectual level. Saying that, my interests within sociology are stratification and inequality, specifically centered on women’s issues and African-American and Latino studies.

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed juggling all the things I currently have on my plate. I gave up a great paying semi-permanent job to go to school full time. As a single mother it is very hard to give up working all together so I work part time and go to school full time. All these pressures come at me constantly and I have to keep it all together. I’m so thankful for the support system that my family and loved ones provide me because without them I couldn’t do anything that I do. Part of my motivation for completing school is for my daughter’s sake. I want her to know that anything is possible no matter what hardships you may face. The other part is that this is something that I’ve always wanted and giving up is not an option. My experience at the University of Maryland has been so wonderful in that the quality of education is so excellent and the students and staff are diverse and great to be around. I really feel that I’ll be walking away from here with a great educational background and as cheesy as it may sound, I really feel that I’ve “found” myself and learned about what I’m all about, and that’s indispensible to me.

Graduating from the University of Maryland means so much to me because when I got pregnant 6 years ago, everyone said that I wouldn’t finish high school, let alone go to college. I would like to continue with my studies and attain a Master’s degree (hopefully from the University of Maryland). I would like to help people who are disadvantaged, I’m not sure exactly what that would translate to career-wise, but I hope to find something that would utilize my education and experience and combine it with the desire I have to help people and provide them with tools that they might not otherwise have access to.

To me the sociological imagination means that I am able to step outside myself and my experiences and take a huge step back and look at social and individual problems within a social context. I truly felt that through learning about sociology, my sociological imagination has expanded and I am grateful for it. I think that everyone should have a sociological imagination to really understand the society in which we live in and have a broader perspective of issues present in our society.

Lena is a senior undergraduate Sociology major.

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