Hannah Uitenbroek, '15, graduated as a sociology major and Latin American studies minor.
I once thought Hermione Granger was the picture of the perfect student. I wondered how she could be so smart, always the first person to raise her hand with correct answers every time. She read books for school because she liked to, not because she was forced to. I admired her greatly growing up. I wanted to be just like her, but unfortunately all throughout my schooling, that was not me. I always did well in school and graduated high school top of my class. However, that was on the outside, inside I always felt I was just scrapping by, mostly memorizing everything for the test. This continued to be true until I found sociology. It was like a magical "click" for me, one that I know many students long for.
In pieces written in spaces like these, usually words are given to caring professors, engaging class projects, and post graduate achievements. I have found those things to be true at UWEC. My sociology professors knew and cared about me and my life outside of my classes; something they don't "have to" do but did because they cared. This 'caring' is something that has immense value because I believe learning occurs most strongly through relationships think about how much you have learned from your closest of relationships; however, can often be under appreciated in the educational world probably because of the ripple effects of the educational world starting roots in a dominantly masculine western white educational world. “Caring” doesn't produce number, or is something that is quite measurable. "Caring" is a feeling, an emotion driven thing; often labeled a feminine characteristic that sadly is historically devalued although so important to make the world a good place to be. The sociology professors at UWEC cared; their caring about our individual selves, myself, carried itself into all aspects of my education. It encompassed projects that let me take ownership over what I was learning. My professors encouraged me to take what I already knew about the world and expand upon it in areas that fascinated me. I loved it.
In this post graduation life, I have reflected upon what "I really learned" through sociology at UWEC. I learned sociological theory (with my personal favorites of feminist and symbolic interactionist theory), how to conduct an ethnography, and deconstruct the world from axis' of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, age, etc. I love it all. At UWEC, I can now see that the sociology professors and sociology material started the process of my personal empowerment as I transitioned from a girl to a woman, recognized my privilege in my whiteness and how to ask questions and search for answers about the world, creating in me this "life-long learner."
Now as I am comparing Hermione Granger and myself, I flashback to a memory of sitting in a UWEC sociology classroom. I was writing down things that my professor was saying about some sociological theorist and I snapped my hand up to answer a question. It is now that I understand the piece that I didn't understand before. It was that Hermione Granger was not just this nerd was was exceptionally intelligent (although I think she was that too) but she was passionate about what she was learning and now I was too. I understand now that I found this passion for learning that I never knew I could have and I am beyond grateful to have had that passion drawn out of me during my time at UWEC.
Hannah Uitenbroek, '15, graduated as a sociology major and Latin American studies minor. After graduating, Hannah moved to Connecticut where she worked as a case manager with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, overseeing operations in a homeless shelter. Following that service, Hannah returned to her home of Milwaukee where she now works as a food justice organizer.