Major of the Month

UCLA Sociology 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!