As MCLA's representative at the American Sociological Association's (ASA) annual meeting in Denver, Colo., Rachael Silvano '13 of Pittsfield, Mass., last month was immersed in the diverse study of her field with leading professionals and other top undergraduate students from across the nation.
At the conference, Silvano met prominent sociologists, presented her work to other students and was afforded multiple networking opportunities with like-minded undergraduates, as well as professors from graduate programs.
"MCLA has given me opportunities that I never believed possible," Silvano said. "If you asked me three years ago if I thought I would have gone across the country to meet the most prominent sociologists in the field today, I would have laughed. Today, that reality continues to be fostered by the amazing professors whom I work with every day, and the MCLA community as a whole."
Nominated to the position by sociology professor Dr. Ingrid Castro, Silvano said the conference - one of the largest gatherings of sociologists in the world - was both an exciting and an intense experience.
"Every day we had activities from around 8 in the morning to 9 at night. We did everything from formal dinners with other sociologists to lectures given by the president of the ASA to talking about the graduate school process with the head of graduate admissions of various schools," Silvano explained.
In addition to the academic learning she gained, Silvano said the experience led to personal discovery as she gained an increased passion for sociological study.
"One of the biggest things I took away from the program was the diversity that is demonstrated in sociology. I do not think there are many other academic fields where you can attend lectures on animals, disability studies, movies and education all in one day!"
The conference helped Silvano to understand what attending graduate school might look like, and to explore various careers available to sociologists. Her goal is to work to create, organize and implement programs for young adults who live in small communities.
The best part of the conference, Silvano said, was the opportunity to present her research at roundtable discussion. "It was important for me to hear critiques from other students, as well as having the ability to look critically at their work."
Back on campus, Silvano said one of the most important groups she participates in is STAGE (Students Taking Action for Gender Equality).
"This group is not only supportive, but amazing in the work they do to create awareness of gender rights," she said. "They organize events that benefit the whole campus. STAGE has contributed to my growth and learning at MCLA by providing a network of students to discuss educational issues with, and to give strength to classroom discussion through their various perspectives."
MCLA's department of anthropology, sociology and social work is another real strength to the College, Silvano said, because of its professors' commitment to student success from the start.
She finds MCLA's student body to be welcoming and nonjudgmental, but perhaps the campus' greatest asset is its staff, Silvano said.
"So many of them are tireless in their attempts to make MCLA the best experience for students, and it shows. I also find that many staff go out of their way to be friendly, which creates a very comforting and trustworthy atmosphere."