Mistead Sai is a 2012 Sociology Major and former undergrad program rockstar. Kendra Barber, an advanced Sociology graduate student, had Mistead in two of her classes. She caught up with Mistead this semester to see what he’s up to.
What made you decide to be sociology major?
I decided to be a Sociology major because I wanted to examine and address the social inequalities in our society. During my sophomore year at the University of Maryland, I was debating on what I wanted to major in. When I was discussing the issue with a couple of my friends, they suggested I look into sociology, therefore I decided to take a couple courses during my Spring semester, which I fell in love with. I took a course on contemporary social problems instructed by Professor Kendra Barber and it opened my eyes to social inequalities. Professor Barber encouraged me to look and think critically about social problems. I left the class questioning, how I can help to alleviate social inequalities and seek out justice for folks in my personal, interpersonal, and professional life. It is been those two objectives that have been the vehicles for transforming my college experience and my future pursuits.
What did you learn most from your time as Sociology major?
I learnt that sociology offers the language to talk about your lived experience. Some people ask, why would you major in this social science, they say it’s obvious, but it’s the nature of this science that offers perspective on your social reality. Sociology provides the language that helps your reality feel intrinsically real because you have the aptitude to understand the cultural, social, and historical-context into the societal mechanisms in which one lives in. Additionally, serving to be a discipline that is comparative, by nature, your lived experience is one of shared experiences and crucial in discovering social-phenomena. Moreover, sociology is interdisciplinary and thereby offers the language in which you can engage in other disciplinary sciences.
What does the sociological imagination mean to you?
It means constantly engaging in self-reflexive experiences where I can make sense of my experience in respect to society. I would say it’s what classical Greek philosopher Socrates would say as “know thyself.” If I am able to grapple with the external processes that make up my social reality, then I can delve into deeper matters of the self and strategies into how I combat those oppressive images for myself and others. Post-graduation, I am continually being socially mindful and using my sociological imagination to ponder on matters of identity politics, race relations, and the biopolitics of race.
Tell me about your life post-graduation. Where have you been working since graduation?
I am currently serving as a missionary for the General Board of Global Ministries for the United Methodist Church. Commissioned in last August, I am working with Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) as my placement. IWJ is a non-profit organization based in Chicago that focuses on worker’s rights and worker justice issues. I serve on the staff as their Worker Center Network Assistant. It has allowed me to examine the systems of oppression at the workplace. I hope that by seeking out justice in terms of worker’s rights, I inadvertently will be addressing and alleviating the racism, sexism, classism, and the likes at the workplace.
What are your future career goals?
My hope is to build on my work experience a little bit more then return back to academia for a Master’s program either in Social Policy, Social Work, Public Policy, Theological Studies or possibly even a Ph.D in Sociology. Ideally at the moment, my future career goal is to work as a full-time staff member for a non-profit or a faith-based initiative that simultaneously addresses the justice and mercy work we need in society.