Major of the Month

UCLA Sociology 

November's Major of the Month:

René Valius


Hometown: Originally from Miami, Florida, [but] my passion has been experiencing new people, places, and cultures. In addition to my travels worldwide from Israel to South Africa, I've also lived in New York, Atlanta, and most recently, Los Angeles to attend UCLA. 


What do you do when you're not studying?: Surfing, Climate Activism (including Climate Reality Leader 2021), Reading, Exploring National Parks, Reselling, Tennis


What drives your interest in Sociology?

I have always lived by the motto that “I am a student of life.” On a micro level, I believe that each personal experience can bring about learning lessons and change at a macro level because these micro experiences tie together to form society. That in and of itself is sociology: how the collective forms from the singular and vice versa; this is where my interest began, but what ultimately made me pursue a major in sociology at UCLA was after I read W. E. B. Du Bois essay, “The Souls of Black Folks.” In his piece, he explores the existence of black “double consciousness. Black “double consciousness” is the internal conflict experienced by oppressed or colonized groups in an oppressive society. This essay motivated me to pursue a degree in sociology and has also been the main focus of my research .Sociology will always be a part of my everyday life, and it continues to help me understand the world around me and be the change I want to see in the world.  


What are your future career plans? 

While attending UCLA, I have had the pleasure of being a part of the Law Fellows program. Through this program, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the academies they offer. I’ve heard from incredible speakers and alumni; I’ve sat in on graduate law classes and had the opportunity to meet one on one with my law mentor. Through these experiences, I’ve realized that I am passionate about the law and looking forward to going to law school and becoming a lawyer. I will be studying for the LSAT in the coming months and applying to law schools. I am actively pursuing internships and look forward to all that will bring.


What message do you have for fellow students, faculty, and staff in Sociology?

For fellow students - my advice is to utilize all the resources UCLA has to offer. The reality is we will not like every course we take, but there’s always something important to be learned. Take the classes that make sense to who you are and build upon that. 

For faculty and staff - I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn from you.  


Which Sociology classes have you enjoyed the most?

My favorite courses were SOC 101 and 102. These foundational courses set the tone for everything I learned and ignited my passion for sociology. I loved taking an internship through the course SOC 195 CE and working with Eric Baldwin. This class helped me see just how much sociology does impact the world and your career. I enjoyed classes with Professor Speer, including Sociology of Mass Communications (M176), Soc 110, Soc 185. As far as non-sociology courses go, favorites would be Professor Tananarive Due's Afrofuturism and Sunken Place courses. 

October's Major of the Month: 

Nicolette Gelnak

Hometown: Woodland Hills, CA

Favorite part of being back on campus: I love the energy that comes with having everyone back on campus together. 

Fun fact: I own an Etsy shop where I sell 3D printed cookie cutters!


What drives your interest in Sociology?

As the daughter of immigrants from two countries that are in constant social and political turmoil, I have heard my fair share of tragic history over the years. I grew up on stories of modern ethnic cleansing efforts in Armenia and government corruption in Russia. Now, I am coming into adulthood in the midst of increasing social unrest in America. Studying sociology will not only enables me to understand the underlying social issues that influence these societal patterns, but gives me the skills I need to act with purpose. Through discussions on topics such as intersectionality, societal norms, inequality, and more, I am gaining a more holistic comprehension of the current state of the world so that I better know how I can improve it. Recent events have only highlighted the vital importance of cultivating a sociological imagination. In Spring 2020, nation-wide protests following the death of George Floyd erupted only weeks after I had learned about how the ways in which police brutality events were framed influenced the outcome of the Rodney King trial in Sociology CM125. I am constantly seeing opportunities to apply the discussions we have in class to the events occurring everyday around me. Sociology is more than a subject to study: it is a method of thinking and a way of seeing the world. It’s an exploration of my social surroundings, a way to start recognizing how and why injustices occur, and a source of the hope that I can make a difference.


What are your future career plans?

After I complete my undergraduate degree, I plan to continue pursuing higher education in law school, during which time I intend to build upon my understanding of society and further enhance my ability to make change. In law school, I hope to learn how to fight for justice in what often seems to be a very unjust world. Studying the law is an opportunity to combine my passion for leadership with my desire to advocate for others on a larger scale. Upon my graduation, I will be armed with the knowledge and credentials necessary to meaningfully address the root causes of societal issues.


Which Sociology classes have you enjoyed the most?
Sociology 173 with Professor Rossman, Sociology CM125 with Professor Clayman, and Sociology 1 with Professor Collett

June's Major of the Month:

Chloe Rosenstock

Hometown: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, specifically Rancho Park (which isn't too far from campus!)

Summer Plans: I am doing the UC Sacramento Public Policy Program and interning for Governor Gavin Newsom's Office. I am also going to be doing mutual-aid work with Street Watch LA on weekends, and hopefully going to as many museums as I can! 

Fun facts about me: I volunteered at a crisis helpline all throughout high school, I'm a geek for good coffee + books, and I celebrated getting vaccinated by going to the Hammer Museum by myself on a weekday.

Roles on Campus: Co-Director of UCLA Sexperts, Programming Assistant Intern for the LGBTQ CRC, Caseworker with the UCLA Mobile Clinic Project UCLA, Internal Affairs Chair for Companion Care (Mobile Clinic's sister organization), Assistant Commissioner of Student Wellness Commission, a DJ at UCLA Radio (DJ), and a member of Random Voices (UCLA's all-women a cappella group).

What drives your interest in Sociology?

I am drawn to sociology because I think it makes me a better citizen of the world. Every time I take a sociology class, I feel as though I can take the knowledge outside the classroom. To me, that is the most valuable aspect of education. Sociology as a subject has also made me realize the path I want to take in life: social change. After learning about the micro and macro structures within which we operate, I felt drawn towards reconstructing those structures to create a more equitable and enjoyable future: planting the seeds that I may not see grow. I owe my passion to Sociology.

What are your future career plans?

I plan to go into public policy. I work very closely with the unhoused community through UCLA Mobile Clinic, and I am committed to reimagining what it means to have affordable and equitable access to housing within a city and how to achieve that. I want to pursue a Masters in Public Policy or Social Welfare prior to hopefully attending law school in order to pursue this path! 

What are some of your favorite Sociology courses?

Sociology 180: Reproductive Politics and Everyday Life with Professor Gail Kligman. This class had some of the most engaging readings, documentaries, and lessons that I've experienced at UCLA. Learning about reproductive politics is incredibly pertinent in my everyday life as a woman, and incredibly useful in implementing an intersectional feminist framework. Learning about reproductive justice, midwifery, sterilization, and the social construction of motherhood all gave me so much insight into the structures that exist around me and what my place is within each of them. I also loved Sociology 101: Development of Sociological Theory with Professor Yeritsian -- I loved how we were able to analyze current events through a Marxist to Weberian lens, making past theories applicable to today.

May's Major of the Month: 

Daniella Cohensedgh

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

What drives your interest in Sociology?

I am a strong believer that knowledge should relate directly to human life and pave our path toward overcoming problems. Sociology fulfills these purposes in the best imaginable way. People and their social relationships have always fascinated me. Taking my first sociology class in college, I knew that I had found that special discipline that would uniquely captivate me. Sociology was an enticing invitation to delve deeper, examine, discuss, and write about social life. I love how sociology has sharpened my perception and critical thinking. Taking this first class was what drove my interest in Sociology. After taking this course, I began to realize how prominent Sociology is applicable to my everyday life. For example, I have paid more attention to social class and status while working at a high-end sports club, where membership is tied with social values such as health, fitness, beauty, and prestige. Sociology also made me a more critical observer of gender. Women still earn less than men in similar positions, and they have been silent victims of men's harassment in industries like entertainment. These sociological issues are important to me as a young woman of immigrant background who hopes to attain a better life than my parents through higher education.

My sociology education is the ideal background for the study of law, which I am pursuing to become an attorney. My studies in sociology have helped me develop a better understanding of the social context in which the law governs our lives. For example, sociologists have extensively researched how a person's race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status can affect their fortunes in life, for instance increase their odds of being arrested or receiving the death penalty. Sociology has therefore shape me into a more compassionate legal professional who is sensitive to people's adverse life circumstances and will advocate their interests with great understanding and vigor.

What are your future career plans?

My future career plan is to become a lawyer for those that have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. I am very passionate about advocating for those who have been silenced and through my work in the UC Women's Leadership Committee at UCLA this past year, I have been able to understand more about how many individuals have experienced sexual assault and need someone to advocate and believe in them. I hope to work in a big law firm and then someday open up my own law firm that focuses on women's needs to be heard and helped. As a lawyer, I will fight to be a voice for the voiceless. I will fight for people who do not have a family that they can count on. I will be a voice for the women and men who are frozen from shock, pain and disbelief. Most importantly, I will be a voice to those who have been told to stay silent, reminding them that they do not need to stay silent and that they can achieve anything and everything that they set their mind to, regardless of what they may be labeled as. I hope to achieve all of this with my education in law and future as a lawyer. I hope to work with other independent women that hope to make a difference in the world in order to help those who need someone to speak up on their behalf and fight for the justice that they deserve.

Which Sociology classes have you enjoyed the most?

I have enjoyed all of my Sociology courses, yet my favorites have been African American Studies C191: Sociology of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, Sociology 191V: Socialization and Life Course, and Sociology 147A: Sociology of Crime.

April's Major of the Month:

Sean McMillan

Where are you from? San Jose, CA

Is there a fun fact you'd like to share about yourself? I've raised three guide dogs for the blind.

How did you celebrate getting vaccinated? I hugged my best friend for the first time in a year!

What is one of your goals for 2021? I plan to start fostering cats and kittens, just as my family did when I was growing up.

What drives your interest in Sociology?

Prior to transferring to UCLA, I helped start one of the first publicly funded LGBTQ+ homeless shelters in the US. During my time working at the shelter, I witnessed the profound disparities my clients faced on a daily basis. In my sociology courses I learned about social structures, institutions, and the many systemic issues that lead to inequality in our society. I saw firsthand how these systemic inequalities affected my clients at the shelter. I decided I wanted to study sociology with the hope of one day working in policy reform to create meaningful policy change that would benefit the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged populations. In my sociology courses at UCLA, I have learned about how social structures such as politics, gender, and medicine operate and impact our daily lives; these insights have allowed me to better understand my own life and the world around me, and I know that I will continue to use these valuable lessons throughout my education and career.

What are your future career plans?

This Fall, I will be starting a Master of Public Health in Health Policy at Yale University. My goal is to become a Healthcare Policy Analyst to analyze and develop legislation and initiatives to improve access to healthcare for underserved populations. Millions of people in the US are not able to access adequate medical care due to issues such as poor healthcare infrastructure and disparities related to race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, and more. I believe each and every person deserves accessible, culturally competent medical care and I want to reform our health systems to ensure that every person can receive the healthcare they need.

What have been some of your favorite Sociology courses at UCLA?

Medical Sociology with Professor Timmermans taught me about health inequities and the flaws in the US healthcare system which will be valuable as I pursue a career in public health. In Sociology of Emotions with Professor Anderson, I learned so much about the ways our emotions impact our lives and social connections. Both the Honors Research Seminar with Professor Berend and my SRP 199 with Professor Saguy have given me with valuable, hands-on research experience which I can apply in my future academic and professional pursuits.

Major of the Month, March 2021:

Estefania Villicaña-Albañil

Where are you from? Salinas, California

Do you have a quarantine hobby? My quarantine pastime is binge watching movies (currently going through the Marvel movies). 

What is one of your goals for the new year? Incorporate more cardio in my workouts.

What drives your interest in Sociology? 

Throughout my life, I have been affected by social injustices due to being a woman of color, therefore leading me to pursue a degree in Sociology. With this major, I am understanding other social perspectives and plan to make a positive social change—a change that encourages diversity, so minorities like myself can strive in institutions that weren’t made for people like us. Creating a true diverse community will change society to thrive together with support, inspiration, and acceptance.

What are your future career plans? 

Coming from the second least educated town in the nation, I would like to become an Ethnic Studies Teacher at my former high school, North Salinas High School. Since I see my younger self in these students returning to my community as a role model is my goal. As a teacher of color, I will give students of color a better understanding of their roots to be able to navigate through academia. With grit, my students will work hard to defeat the obstacles of being first generation and low income on their journey to obtain education. My journey through education has not been traditional, but my resilience has been fueled by the desire to occupy spaces that my community, past and present, were incapable of occupying due to inequitable opportunities. My interest in becoming a teacher at my former high school stems from that same desire and is followed by the drive to break the patterns of educational and societal oppression.

I want to break the cycle in my community where people don’t go to college due to the fact that they don’t believe in themselves, for it is not common for minorities to go to college. I was trapped within that same cycle until some teachers and coaches saw the potential in me and made me realize what I was capable of. Because of this experience, I help others see and believe that they are worthy through being a TRiO Peer Mentor at my former community college and strive to be a teacher to influence the next generation in our community. Coming from a community that is disadvantaged in every way possible, higher education is the key to changing Salinas for the better. I want students to be able to overcome these obstacles that are holding them back by exposing them to minorities with higher education that they can relate to and starting a program to help prospective first-generation college students at my old high school. Now that I am in higher education, I have come to realize that certain populations are lacking in resources and knowledge about how to pursue a college degree. Returning as a teacher, I will fight the stigma of Salinas being a disadvantaged community, for I believe education will open the doors of opportunities for future generations.

What have been some of your favorite Sociology courses? 

Soc 180A: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Considering University with Professor Brown and Soc 133: Collective Behavior with Professor Walker


 Major of the Month, February 2021:
 Nia Dennis


Where are you from? Columbus, Ohio. 

What is your favorite Westwood hangout? BJ's. 

What are some of your quarantine pastimes? Quarantine life opened my eyes to truly appreciate nature and take walks.

What are your goals for 2021? Athletically: I hope to be Pac-12 Champions, Regional Champions, and National Champions in 2021. Academically: I hope to finish my spring quarter with a 3.5 GPA. 


Why did you choose Sociology as a major? 

I chose Sociology as a major because it really goes in depth about how humans interact and associate with one another throughout society, so I could have a better understanding of how I can make a difference in the world.

What do you want to do after you graduate? 

I hope to get into stunt doubling and dancing, but really anything in the entertainment world. Sociology has taught me about social and emotional work with individuals, and I can better approach situations ahead of time. 


What have been your favorite Sociology courses? 

Some of my favorite sociology classes have been Sociology of Emotions, Sociology of Violence, Culture & Personality, and Sociology of Deviant Behavior. 


 Major of the Month, January 2021:

Angela Li

Where are you from? Singapore

What is one of your goals for the new year? Read more poetry and try to memorize some good ones.

Do you have a quarantine hobby: I borrowed a neighbor's sewing machine to make some recycled fabric coasters as gifts.

What drives your interest in Sociology?

My interest is driven by the potential to reveal real, unintended impacts of human endeavors on the rest of society. As a sociology and economics double major, I am fascinated by how deep and wide the effects of economic systems and government policies are on the structure and norms of a society. As a Singaporean whose parents grew up in a rapidly changing post-Mao China, I listened to stories of how families adapted to the Communist Party’s sweeping economic policies, or learned about how the Singapore government carefully engineered a coherent national identity out an assembly of different cultural backgrounds.

The potential for the state and economy to shape society often stretches far beyond politician’s imaginations. The narratives being crafted and shared at the top affect who qualifies for help at the bottom. Biases and subconscious frames in the minds of decision-makers inevitably impact how resources are distributed in society and how disadvantaged populations are perceived and supported.

Sociology has been the critical counterbalance to the paradigmatic and theoretical weight of economics, providing me with the analytical tools to understand the profound and systemic impact of capitalist industries and government policies on human life. From studying the Marxist critique of economic theory, to applying neo-institutional theories to globalization and market reform, my study of sociology has provided a crucial understanding of economic systems and their impacts on human society. The potential to bring about positive social change through policy decisions inspires me to learn more.

What are your future career plans?

I hope to inform policymaking that promotes sustainable economic growth. At UCLA, I have taken small but illuminating steps towards my goals as a student leader in the community service sphere. I constantly engage sociological and economic perspectives to assess the value that student organizations bring to the Los Angeles community, and focus on pushing student leaders to think more deeply about the broader issues and circumstances impacting their service community and work. From here, I hope to transition to larger roles where I can inform decisions made by international organizations and governments in their design and implementation of appropriate and sustainable policies to achieve inclusive economic growth.

The challenge of implementing appropriate economic policies is pertinent because many more countries are in the midst of great economic and social transformations, and lessons from the past tell us that we need to consider more than just GDP growth to end up with a truly flourishing society. I am inspired by the collaboration between governments and multilateral organizations to create modern and appropriate solutions to managing economic resources and providing economic empowerment. One example that I find impressive is the work of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in promoting sustainable management of biologically and culturally unique areas. Designing such comprehensive solutions requires a sophisticated understanding of institutions from a sociological and economic perspective. With further education beyond my undergraduate degree and experience in the field, I see myself taking on such a role and doing a small part to make the world better for all.

What have been some of your favorite Sociology courses?

Environmental Sociology with Prof Bargheer; Self and Society with Prof Collett; Soc 102 with Prof Macias

December 2020 Major of the Month:

Grant Cho 

Hometown: Los Angeles  

Quarantine Pastimes: Hiking, Learning French with my sister 


What drives your interest in Sociology?

As the first person in my family to attend college, I made a commitment to myself and my family to work hard to earn my degree in the pursuit of increasing health equity for underserved minority communities. I have personally witnessed the devastating difficulties immigrant families face when trying to access even adequate care, almost losing both of my parents to cancer. I realized that in order to achieve my dream of becoming a healthcare advocate for families like my own, I needed an education focused on critically analyzing the access to and navigation of societal institutions. Sociology provides students like me with a unique and interdisciplinary understanding the relationship between people and systems, power structures and oppression, and addresses the root causes of inequity that persist within our society. I believe that studying Sociology has provided me with the perspective and skill-set necessary to be a more effective community advocate both on and off campus. By practicing public health through a sociological lens, I can contribute to dismantling systemic barriers to care and promote happier and healthier communities.  

What are your future career plans?  

My ultimate goal is to work on behalf of the California Association of Free and Charitable Clinics and improve access to health resources to underserved communities throughout the state. I plan to pursue an MPH-MHA in order to intensively study hospital administration, management, and policy-based problem solving. With a Sociological background, I can more effectively lead organizations in providing healthcare education and forge new partnerships with existing institutions to help community members overcome barriers to accessing vital healthcare services.  

I have strong personal reasons for this career interest. I grew up in a medically-underserved community. Without sufficient high-quality insurance coverage, my parents have never been able to access timely care and are rarely provided access to Korean-speaking doctors and nurses, undermining their treatment. I want to take all of the lessons and insights gained from my family’s own struggles and use them to empower others. I understand the multiple barriers that prevent people like my family from accessing care. For too many Americans, issues such as distance, money, and access to specialists present insurmountable barriers. I plan to devote my life to helping others overcome such difficulties and attain equal treatment and access to resources and decisions. 

Which Sociology classes have you enjoyed the most? 

My three favorite Sociology classes have been Sociology 170 (Medical Sociology), Sociology 128 (Sociology of Emotions), and Sociology 156 (Race and Ethnicity in America). Medical Sociology details the historical relationship between patients and providers, and the development of health resource deserts for minority communities. The Sociology of Emotions provides critical insight into the journeys of migrants and immigrants escaping difficult lives in their home countries and enduring the unimaginable to support their children in America. Finally, Race and Ethnicity dispels myths about notions of race, and underscores how racialization informs patient experiences in healthcare settings and broader social structures. 

Within each of these courses, I was able to recognize and apply classroom concepts to my own family's journey from South Korea up until my journey in college. For me, these courses have allowed me to engage in insightful and timely discussions and solidified my commitment to establish more accessibility and resources for minority communities in order to promote communities of care and compassion. 

November 2020 Sociology Major of the Month:

Tania Nasrollahi 


Hometown: Los Angeles 

Quarantine Pastimes: Reading and roller-skating! (Also, trying to find the best ramen in L.A.) 

What drives your interest in Sociology? 

Sociology has the power to teach us about the social spaces we operate within and interact with every day. Studying social forces that impact society teaches us not only about the collective experiences of people, but it also gives context to our own experiences. My interest in sociological research was inspired by participating in The Community College to Ph.D. Scholars Program, a program for students of minority status seeking to pursue a Ph.D. I spent a year, alongside my cohort, carrying out a research project about stereotypes of Iranian-Americans in the US. I asked participants about stereotypes they had been subjected to and found distinct ethnic stereotypes that fell outside the well-documented Islamophobic stereotypes. Documenting experiences of Iranian-Americans allowed me to put into words what I had tacitly known for so long. At UCLA, as part of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program,  I am examining racial and ethnic identity processes. Sociology is easily my greatest passion, and no other discipline has taught me more about our world. 

What are your future career plans? 

My time working on various research projects through different fellowships has shown me the importance of developing a sociological imagination. This year, I am applying to Ph.D. programs in Sociology. In graduate school I want to examine the process of categorical avoidance across social settings. Categorical avoidance refers to the decision to reject a label or experience to avoid adopting it as an identity. Moving forward, I want to pursue a career as a professor of sociology. Pursuing a career in academia is daunting, but I am certain of my passion for the discipline, and my research interests in identity, ethnic ascription, gender, and race. My time at UCLA has been immensely informative and I feel ready to take on graduate school. In addition to research and teaching, I am especially excited to act as a mentor for incoming students. With the help of our incredible department, I am much more skilled as a researcher than I once was. I want to give back to a new generation of scholars. As an Iranian-American, queer woman, I know firsthand the value of diversity in educational institutions. For students of color, representation and inclusive spaces can change entire educational trajectories. My research interests are heavily inspired by my life circumstances. Universities have a responsibility to achieve equity for all students, and I am eager to support the goal of promoting diversity by giving marginalized people a voice through my research. 

Which UCLA Sociology classes have you enjoyed the most? 

Special Topics in Sociology: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity: Considering University with Dr. Brown, Contemporary Sociological Theory with Dr. Macias, Honors Seminar in Sociology with Dr. Berend, and all my work in 199 contract courses with Dr. Harris!