What Our Alumni Are Up To
Many of our students do, in fact, stay in contact with us after they have graduated. At times they may simply drop us notes to let us know how they're doing. Other times they write to let us know how they are making use of some information or set of skills that they developed here at UWL and in our program. Finally, some have questions they hope we can answer as they're developing projects and engaged in their work.

What ever the reason, we thoroughly enjoy hearing from our alumni. Below are some of the more recent letters we've received that describe the kinds of work they're doing and how they are applying their sociology skills.

Chandra Ring
2006 Graduate

Research Assistant
OMNI Institute

I graduated in December of 2006 not expecting to get any job that I actually wanted and so I pursued several avenues such as sales, marketing, and receptionist work while hoping that I would someday be able to work in a research environment.  Shortly thereafter I was asked to interview in Denver for the one Research position to which I had applied.

I now work for OMNI Institute, a nonprofit Research and Evaluation company, based in Denver. As a Research Assistant I spend a lot of time using SPSS working with quantitative data including management of the data, managing the data entry, cleaning data, recoding variables, writing and running syntax for analyses of data as well as uncovering inconsistencies. Also included in my responsibilities are analyzing qualitative data, abstracting articles, and collecting data including conducting telephone interviews, co-facilitating focus groups and administering consent forms and surveys in person. I also spend a lot of time interfacing with clients and contractors which recently gave me the opportunity to write a report for one of our clients at the end of one particular evaluation.  I have also been able to create presentations for organizations to use within the local communities they are trying to help.

The types of projects I work on vary a great deal although most of them involve.  I am part of a team evaluating a Holistic Healthy Recovery Program for minorities on parole.  I also work on several substance abuse grants such as Youth in the Workplace, an evaluation going on all over the country for at risk youth, and another project that is taking place in several hospitals around Colorado trying to get people get people to obtain treatment for substance abuse problems.  The Drug Free Communities Project is a project in which I’m involved that is going on in many smaller locales throughout Colorado trying to promote awareness of the dangers of substance abuse. The Healthy Relationships program that I help to evaluate is geared toward improving relationships with both partners and children that is taking place through several organizations throughout Colorado.  I just finished working on an internship project that placed college students, who would not normally be able to participate in an unpaid internship, at non profit organizations throughout the Denver Metro Area.

Although I only have a BA in Sociology, the potential for growth in my company is great and I am continually learning and taking on new challenges daily.  While a sociology degree may appear to be inapplicable to any job, I feel that I have proven otherwise.  The research skills that I learned at UWL helped me tremendously in working with transient communities and quickly fitting into a research environment.

Nicole Hebb
2006 Graduate

HR Asst/Receptionist
Kerry Ingredients

I recently graduated from UW-L, with a BS in Sociology. I applied my education in Sociology to my internship at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital, working in their Behavioral Health Department. I worked as the Crime Victim Services Intern, where I distributed client surveys, compiled demographic statistics, and aided in the organization of events such as the Crime Victim Rights Ceremony.

I am currently working as a Human Resources Assistant and Receptionist at Kerry Ingredients. However, in January of 2007, I am scheduled to move to Sacramento, CA, where I will be working as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps*NCCC. In California, I will be working on natural disaster relief projects along the country's west coast.

Jillian Schwartz
2005 Graduate

Case Manager
Community Based Residential Facility

Although my main focus was Psychology and Sociology, I also spent a great deal of my college career learning about the Criminal Justice System.  During my time at UWL I interned at New Horizon's Women Center as a Legal Advocate.  There I was able to apply my knowledge of working with diverse cultures and families, as well as having an understanding the impact Domestic Violence has on individuals lives, whether they are a direct victim or a witness. After graduating in 2005 I obtained employment as a Case Manger at a Community Based Residential Facility in Madison.  This facility housed 12 women, who either had children under the age of one or who were currently expecting.  The women were living in this facility as Alternatives to Revocation.  I continued employment there for about two years before accepting a job at a Mental Health Clinic.   This clinic serves child victims, ages ten and under, of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, witness to domestic violence and other areas of trauma. 
I truly enjoyed my time, experiences and education at UWL.  Form good relationships with professors they will be one of your strongest advocates upon graduation.  Thanks Dr. Vogt for all of your help and advocacy throughout the years. 

Christie Taylor
2005 Graduate

Program Director
African American Health Coalition

The African American Health Coalition where I work is a community based organization that provides free health services to African Americans in N/NE Portland which is where 80% of all African Americans in Oregon live. We provide free passes to work out, aerobics, strength training and water aerobics classes, nutrition programs, cooking classes, diabetes management groups, trainings for both youth and adults on how to lead a healthy life and encourage others to do the same, AIDS and addiction trainings, and a whole lot of other programs.

I work for the AAHC as the program coordinator, and run the diabetes support group and the nutrition programs. I also help coordinate the events (we have a walk, a conference on health disparities, and a health fair). I also spend a lot of time working with different committees that we have, which, unfortunately, involves taking minutes, something I better be good at after SOC416. I really like it here, I have a lot of freedom to do what I'd like to do, and everyone who works here is really great.My goal is to make all of these projects become as close to self sustainable as I can.

Andy Heim
2004 Graduate
Account Manager
Direct Supply

Hello, my name is Andy Heim and I graduated from UW-L in May of 2004 with a degree in Sociology. Upon graduation I promptly pursued a career in which I utilized the skills I obtained in both my primary field of study as well as many of the other general courses I attended. As a Sociology major I was torn between furthering my education in this field and getting out into the professional world immediately. I ultimately chose the later, specifically looking for positions in business sales and human resources. Today I work for a high growth company in Milwaukee called Direct Supply Inc. Direct Supply is the leading supplier for the Long Term Care community, more commonly known as nursing homes and senior living communities. It is here that I work as a Sales Account Manager. It is my job to assist customers at these facilities with product selection, federal and state guidelines, best industry practices, and customer support/service. In addition I also work with my company in a specialized group that works to promote inclusion and diversity within our organization to maximize efficacy, production, profits, and continually adjust to the changing workforce and market place demands. I found that I have been able to excel in these roles because of my analytical problem solving abilities in relation to qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods, comprehension of survey data (quantitative), as well a strong understanding of other cultures (qualitative), and effective communication skills. Each customer and co-worker is different, as are their individual needs, being able to recognize and adjust to such needs makes for continual success in business. I am glad to have found an environment where I can apply the skills obtained at UW-L. Best of luck to all those pursuing a higher education at such a great University.

Pang Moua
2004 Graduate
La Crosse CMO, Social Worker

Through out my studies at UW-L, I always wanted to be a Social Worker but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to work for families and children or for the elderly population.  However, I knew that in order for me to be a Social Worker for La Crosse County, I had to go back to school to take more courses that were related to Social Work and obtain my social work certification, which I did after I was hired by La Crosse County. 

During my last semester at UW-L, I had the opportunity to intern at the La Crosse County CMO (Care Management Organization for the disabled and elderly).  I fell in love with the job.  It was exactly what I wanted to do.  I also had the benefit of working with the Hmong population since I was Hmong, myself.  It was something that I wanted to do—to work and give back to my own community. 

After I graduated from UW-L in December, I was hired through the La Crosse County CMO as a Social Worker working for the Hmong Elderly population.  I was very excited and happy because I was able to stay and work with the people who I had built a bond with.  It was a very smooth transition for me to start my job since I had interned in the same department.

I am currently still working as a Social Worker for the La Crosse County.  Everyday, I’m still learning a lot from my job and adding it to what I learned from UW-L.

Rachel Rannow
2004 Graduate
Research Manager

My last semester at UW-L was looming ahead of me, and I had yet to decide what to do with my life. While Sociology opened doors, the sky was the limit when it came to choosing a profession. Many of my classmates had already been accepted to Graduate schools by that time, and even more were pursuing Social Work. Neither one was quite the right fit for me and the big question on my mind was “what do I do with a ‘regular’ Sociology degree?”

During my studies, I had learned that my interests primary lie in gender, race and inequalities. Since that focus does not translate very well into “real world” jobs, I decided to cast a wider net when it came to applying for positions. I liked studying differences in distinct segments of populations (essentially what studying inequalities is all about) and deduced that those interests would fit well into studying politics or marketing: Political pollsters are continuously in high demand as incumbents always need to know their standing with constituents; pollsters are especially valued around campaign season as campaign “advisors” of sorts. Research in marketing would mean looking at specific markets and their collective values, views and perceptions. Either way I went, I knew that I would want to be working on something different every day; I wanted change and variety in my career, and I wanted to be mentally challenged.

In the wake of a number of rejection letters, I finally received phone calls for interviews. One company was called ATK, and they were looking for a Marketing Research Analyst in their Civil Ammunition Division. The flagship brand for ATK Civil Ammo was Federal Premium ammunition; since I grew up with hunters, I was somewhat familiar with the brands that ATK offered for hunting and shooting sports. Simultaneously, I landed another interview with the State of Minnesota in for tax analysis. The State needed someone to come in and look at populations and distributions of tax brackets.

I ended up accepting the job in Market Research, and quickly learned how a background in Sociology prepares students extremely well for the market research profession. I was studying a specified population, looking for particular traits and demographics. I was conducting secondary research and using different sources to paint a picture of the industry as a whole. Most importantly, I was managing multiple research projects from conception to completion.

Research projects that I was conducting at ATK followed the same basic procedure as a project conducted in SOC 405. Since the market research budget was set at the beginning of the year, I had limited resources and had to prioritize projects according to how much they contributed to the overall department objectives. I would meet with Brand and Product Line managers to understand their needs and objectives for the research project and discuss methodologies with them. Methodologies were largely determined by budget and timelines, so most projects were conducted via online surveys or by telephone. Some “big picture” projects would require focus groups, while other projects were mailed questionnaires or one-on-one telephone interviews.

After I determined the methodology to be used, I would need to design the survey and have it approved by all parties involved. It was important to ensure that all demographics and psychographics were included, so that all the proper crosstabs could be run after data collection completion. At the same time as survey design, I would be contacting different vendors that would conduct the data collection and receive bids for study costs.

Upon selecting vendors and survey approval, the study would go out for data collection. Depending on the timeline, data were collected anywhere from weeks to just days. Once data collection was completed, I would receive the data (usually in Excel), clean it and drop it into SPSS for analysis.

Analysis and reporting was one of my favorite parts of the position, because this stage is where I really got to use my critical thinking skills. I would start by running frequencies to see general trends: what were the general findings? What were the demographics of the respondents? Are there any over-riding themes? What are some of the factors causing these trends?

Studying Sociology had taught me to think objectively about findings. I challenged myself to look for not only interesting findings, but to incorporate industry trends and underlying factors that contributed to the “big picture.” Market research forced me analyze the market as a whole; I looked at sales trends, sales channels (were consumers buying at Wal-Mart or Gander Mountain?), demographics, region, seasonality, market share, prices, product-mixes, advertising campaigns, competitors, industry trends, legislative issues and regulations, and a plethora of other forces at work within the industry. In short, I had found what I was looking for in my post-collegiate career: change, variety and mental stimulation.

I spent two years at ATK managing the market research group before accepting a position with a market research firm. Now I am a Research Manager at Ipsos-Insight, where I manage projects of larger scale and magnitude. I am learning more about statistical analysis and client needs. I am still managing research projects from start to finish, but am working in the technology industry instead of the outdoor industry.

The more I am learning, the more I understand that the sky is the limit when it comes to my career. Every industry, every business needs to know their customers. They need to know their customers likes, dislikes, values and preferences in order to serve their customers best. As Sociologists we are taught to objectively study populations, and Market Research has turned out to be the perfect venue for me to conduct my studies.