2017 Senior Dinner

The Department of Sociology hosts and annual dinner for graduating seniors at the end of the year.

Below are remarks from the Senior Dinner for the Class of 2017:

Comments by Matthew Palmquist, Class of 2017

So I’ve always really enjoyed sociology. I remember when I was 12 or 13, I bought an old “Intro to Sociology” textbook for $3 or $4 from the local Goodwill in my town, and it was the most fascinating thing ever! The book had articles that covered topics that ranged from the effects of prayer on pregnancy outcomes and why people join street gangs to ranking the prestige of various professions in the United States. While some high schools offer a sociology class, most don’t, which I thought was ridiculous because sociology covers all the hot issues--race, feminism, LGBT issues, class--that get everyone hot and bothered. Students would be motivated to come to class just to give their viewpoints. I’m a very UNOPINIONATED and QUIET person, *wink* but giving my views on these controversial issues and hearing the viewpoints of people I might not have otherwise heard has certainly driven my interest in sociology.

Though there are many things that have made me want to major in Sociology at Georgetown, if I had to narrow it down to one class, it would definitely be Dr. Hinkson’s race & ethnicity class. And, if I had to narrow it down to one day in that class, it would definitely be the day Dr. Hinkson told her clitoris story. Some of you were in that class with me! So correct me if I get any part of this story wrong, but Dr. Hinkson, who went to Williams, was snowed in during one long wintery Massachusetts day. She and her floormates were having deep introspective discussions, as college students often do in their free time, and somehow they broached the topic of race. Dr. Hinkson then said how her RA, a white guy--the constant enemy when it comes to Sociology--said that slavery actually wasn’t all that bad because it brought people of African descent to America. “Because,” he said to Dr. Hinkson, “if it weren’t for my ancestors, you would be sitting in a mud hut in Africa with no clitoris!” And I remember when she told this story I BURST out laughing, and everyone in the class was dead silent and horrified. Dr. Hinkson may have scared away a few potential Sociology majors with that story but, she certainly gained one!

Female anatomy aside, *wink at woman in audience you’ve never seen before* I still think Sociology is really amazing. Still! And we’re very privileged to study it not only at Georgetown but also in this specific city. DC is obviously the center of everything political and historical in the US, but, because of that, it’s also the center of a lot of social organizing and social action. I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know many of you have taken the opportunity to get involved in organizations that aim to ameliorate societal disadvantages or involved in social entrepreneurship. I myself have done both. I’ve worked with Dr. Hinkson for the past two semesters for an organization called Refugee Alliance Network, which was introduced to me by Dr. Stiles in her social entrepreneurship class. And if there has ever been a time that I’ve seen Sociology in action, it was when I sold t-shirts at the women’s march for Refugee Alliance Network.

If i could summarize our major in one sentence, it would be: “People are followers.” People do what society tells them to do! *throw arms in air* Sometimes it’s good, such as “don’t kill people,” or “buy Matt’s t-shirts.’ Sometimes it’s bad like, “don’t buy Matt’s t-shirts” or, “Make America Great Again.” *air quotes so they know you are not that racist* So anyway, I found it was rather difficult to sell one t-shirt, but was extremely easy to sell six or seven. Few customers were willing to purchase a shirt after my long-winded sales pitch, which involved an explanation about the organization, description of our need for the funds, and finally allowing them to try on the shirt. *wink* But when people saw their fellow white privilege women marchers buying my fashionable merchandise, they had to have it too. When they saw other human beings purchasing my product, they didn’t wait for an explanation before shoving their cash in my faces. *push hand into face* So if you want to see sociology in action, I suggest that you sell things on the street--which brings me to my final point.

In the Sociology textbook that made me fall in love with this discipline, there was a sticker on the cover that said something like, “Flip to the last page to find out what kind of jobs a degree in Sociology prepares you for!” So I flipped to the final page, and it had a long-winded, roundabout explanation like, “Sociology is a major that hones your writing skills blah blah teaches you to think critically blah blah and is a study that combines various disciplines, so if you show up to class and study and get good grades, employers in all fields will see that you were a dedicated student and will be a dedicated worker!” In other words, sociology prepares you for nothing; but in that vein, it also prepares you for EVERYTHING. *wink*

I think that every department likes to believe that its major will teach you everything about the world and prepare you for anything. Biology majors say, “Biology is the study of life! Everyone must understand to live!” *gesticulate wildly* Physics majors say, “Physics is the study of the laws that govern the universe! Everyone must understand to exist!” English majors say, “English is the study of communication and expression! Everyone must understand to communicate and express!” That’s all well and good, but without Sociology, we would not have to socio-cultural skills to analyze why certain diseases affect certain populations, why certain physicists are given grant money and some aren’t, and why some authors are featured heavily in textbooks while others are forgotten. Sociology really is the study of the interactions that govern everything.

So finally, because although our major is something that can both be everything at nothing at the same time, we can’t necessarily get a job in which we are everything and nothing all the time. *palms toward air in front like holding two trays* I’d like to inform anyone who doesn’t already know *wink* that two of the most famous people in the world, Mike Posner and Michelle Obama, were Sociology majors. So when people ask, “Matt, WHAT are you ever going to DO with your degree in SOCIOLOGY??” I just look at them like the answer couldn’t be any clearer, and say, “I’m going to become a pop star, and then marry the president, obviously.”