As a member of the American Sociological Association's Honors Program, Bee Kissinger '12 of Ballston Spa, N.Y., interacts with leading sociologists from around the country. Recognized as an "academically exceptional student" by the Association, she recently attended its annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nev., where she presented her research on "Cinematic Representations of Educational Inequality among Urban Youth."
"I am very interested in sociology of education and stratification and inequality in general," Kissinger said. "I frequently focus on class (socio-economic status), but I also am very interested in racial inequality in the education system."
Only a small group of students are selected to share their work at the annual conference. This year was particularly competitive because of the large number of interesting, original and well-written papers that were submitted to the Association, Kissinger said.
"I got to meet some really renowned sociologists and speak to them about some of their work," she said. "As someone who comes from a working class family, this was such a wonderful opportunity to be able to be part of this."
A double major in sociology and psychology, Kissinger was particularly happy to be representing Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"I don't know that any students from our school have gone before, and a lot of students who have access to these types of programs attend more privileged institutions," she explained. "It was really exciting to be someone who wasn't from an Ivy League school who has already met some of these sociologists who might teach at one of those institutions."
Kissinger continued, "It was a really good experience to talk to people and to learn more about what it means to have your Ph.D. in sociology. It helped me to decide that I really do want to move forward in that path."
Sociology wasn't always Kissinger's career goal. After high school, she thought she wanted to become a nurse.
"I decided that wasn't for me, but had no idea of what I wanted to do," she explained. "I lacked a lot of confidence in terms of what I could do, so I went to a community college where I took a social work class. That is got me interested in sociology."
Kissinger then accessed MCLA's Advantage New York (ANY) tuition reduction program and transferred to MCLA. Through ANY, she saves about $8,500 each year.
"I just loved my sociology courses at MCLA," Kissinger said. "I loved the professors. They really got me thinking and they got me to feel like there was an avenue for me to take with my life where I could think about things in terms of society and inequality, and what it means to live in the United States, in particular."
However, Kissinger did not know what she would do with a sociology degree until she began talking with Dr. Ingrid Castro, a sociology professor at MCLA.
"Now I feel really confident that I can make this work. I absolutely can keep studying and learning and make teaching others my job. I love what I'm doing."