Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Rebecca Lakew

I was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland and come from a large, close-knit Ethiopian family. I grew up surrounded by much of my extended family. I attended small, Catholic schools all my life before coming to the University of Maryland (UMD) and credit a great deal of my work ethic, discipline, and sense-of-self to these schools. The small teacher-to-student ratios ensured that every student received the attention and help he/she needed. I was also able to get involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities such as athletics and Student Government.After high school, I chose UMD because I believed that I could receive an excellent education while seeing what it was like to go to a large, public university that would provide me with many opportunities.  I enjoyed the challenge of finding my way around campus and meeting people from various walks of life. Although I spent the first two years as an engineering major, a part of me always felt like I had not taken time to explore the countless other majors at the University. I took my first sociology course and knew right away that this is where I truly belonged. I have always been a people person, as well as an observer. I love meeting new people and hearing their story. Further, I strongly believe that all aspects of an individual’s life are interconnected. This may sound cliché, but I honestly believe people are they way they are because of the experiences they have been through. With that being said, the discipline of sociology has allowed me to gain a better understanding of why our society is the way it is. This in turn, shapes how things like behaviors, norms, and traditions are formed.What I love most about our sociology department is how welcoming the professors have been. Three of my professors, in particular, have had lasting impressions on me. Professor John Pease taught my Social Stratification and Inequality class.  His enthusiasm for teaching and desire to help students is palpable. Further, Professor Pease’s unique approach to teaching, as well as helping students, is what I will remember most. Long after my Social Stratification class ended, Professor Pease was always willing to give me advice.

Dr. Patricia Hill Collins taught my Public Sociology course, which pushed me to explore my full potential as an individual, as a scholar, and as a sociologist. Throughout the semester, we worked on our own public sociology proposals. I chose to focus mine on shedding light on the immigrant experience in the U.S., which has always been an interest of mine. I got the opportunity to present my proposal at this year’s Eastern Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

I had Dr. Linda Moghadam for Family and Society. She is a true advocate for students and has been a mentor to me in so many ways. Whether she is answering the countless questions that I always have or giving me advice about graduate school, I know that she always has the best interest of the students in mind.

With graduation only a couple of weeks ago, I can safely say that time flies. I plan on attending grad school in a year or so but am currently in the process of applying to internships and fellowships that relate to international development and public health. These two fields are most likely what I will be studying in graduate school but I want to take some time to figure out exactly what I want to concentrate in. Regardless of where I end up, I know that my sociological imagination will inevitably be closely tied to my work. I want to always remember to take a step back and view things in their true, wider context. Ultimately, I hope to dedicate my life’s work to “making public issues out of private troubles.”

Rebecca is a senior undergraduate sociology major.

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