Outstanding Graduates Sociology and Anthropology
In the classroom, Kennedy Dalager '20 has discovered a love for qualitative methodology in her research projects on the formation of identity. Outside the classroom, her participation in local tutoring through Urban Initiative and leading the Potter’s Clay’s cultural immersion team have deepened her appreciation for cross-cultural experiences. Having interned at the Teen Court in Santa Barbara and Because Justice Matters, an organization that creates pathways for women and girls living in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, Kennedy is interested in pursuing a joint MSW and JD to combine her passion for social justice with practical and preventative legal work in such areas as sex trafficking, prison reform, immigration, and/or violence and domestic abuse against women and children.
Emily Stoppler '19, whose senior project explored the sociological factors that influence attitudes about interracial dating relationships, hopes to attend graduate school for sport psychology to become a counselor to student-athletes. “Bringing awareness to mental health in the realm of college athletics is something I am very passionate about and would love to pursue in the future,” she says.
She interned at World Vision and ShelterBox USA, a leading disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization.
“Emily brings a high level of intellectual curiosity and intensity when interrogating texts and conducting research,” says Felicia Song, chair of the sociology department. “She models how being thoughtful about sociological and theological realities can be meaningfully expressed by helping these organizations tell their stories locally and globally through developing and managing video shoots, press releases and archived footage.”
“The best part of my time at Westmont has been the people around me,” Stoppler says. “Both my friends and faculty push me and challenged me in my academics and my faith. I am forever grateful for the faculty who have poured into me here and have taken the time to invest in me as a student and person as well as the friends I have made here that have encouraged me and loved me with the love of Christ.”
Haley Parzonko '18 hopes to bring about social change, promoting human flourishing in marginalized communities. She served four years with the homeless ministry Bread of Life and studied with Westmont Downtown, working with an organization that brings together local businesses, non-profits and government agencies to combat homelessness and assist domestic trafficking survivors. She invested in a reading group on race and criminal justice and explored issues of gender, religion and class during the Westmont in Cairo semester. One of the most rewarding parts of her Westmont career was competing with the women’s soccer team. “This program was a safe place for me to learn how to fail and grow from those experiences,” she says. “My character and leadership have grown tremendously due to the coaches, mentors and teammates all affiliated with the Westmont program. The program cared about winning, but they also cared about each player in the long run and who we are going to be as people in this world. I find it very special they cared about developing us as women to empower our voice and character.”
Emma Robins’ ('17) pursuit of academic excellence is reflected in her double-majoring in sociology and English, and minoring in gender studies. Her major-honors thesis explores media representations of police brutality and sexual assault, including how language about black women’s experiences both reflects and stifles their lived realities of racial and gender prejudice. Emma’s passion for ministering to persons with stigmatized identities is exemplified in her work as a chaplain at San Francisco General Hospital and leader in Spectrum, a local nonprofit seeking to create a safe space to discuss issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Next year, Emma will work with economically-disadvantaged children in Oakland, continue working as a chaplain, and seek to serve at a rape crisis center. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in social work. We are pleased to award her with the Outstanding Senior Award in sociology and anthropology.
Striving to integrate her faith, academics, and practice, Sherry Luo '17 is deeply committed to serving marginalized populations and applying her sociological understanding of institutional systems and inequalities. Sherry has worked with adult orphans with disabilities in Guatemala through Emmaus Road, tutored prospective first-generation college students as a Liberal Arts Ambassador, participated in Bread of Life, and interned at The Freedom Story, a nonprofit that mentors disadvantaged students vulnerable to human trafficking. On campus, Sherry founded and led Convergence, a student club that creates opportunities to foster civil dialogue about current issues, including the refugee crisis, gun control, freedom of speech, Black Lives Matter, and mass incarceration. This fall, Sherry will begin a master’s program in social work. She plans to work with disadvantaged children, youth, and families in urban settings. We are pleased to award her with the Sociology and Anthropology Praxis Award.
Chad Sykes '16 is deeply committed to living out his Christian faith through community engagement. Chad has excelled in the classroom and in the Westmont Downtown program – asking meaningful questions, demonstrating significant sociological insight, and striving to achieve positive social change. Through his work as a program intern with the nonprofit organization Just Communities, Chad researched the complex social issues in the U.S. educational system. Chad’s passion for being a mentor is apparent in his work as a resident assistant on-campus, his involvement as a camp counselor with abused foster care children, and his role as the student-chaplain on the Westmont in Northern Europe program. Following graduation, Chad intends to teach high school mathematics and coach youth basketball.
Katie Pluymert’s ('15) academic excellence goes far beyond her coursework. As the Editor-in-Chief of Westmont’s Horizon, Katie’s leadership encouraged campus discussions over socially significant issues including racial diversity, sexuality, and social inequality. Committed to fostering dialogue and engaging matters of diversity, she founded the Loving Our Religious Neighbors Club – a group that encourages interfaith dialogue on campus, studied abroad with the Westmont in Istanbul program, and is completing a senior research project that examines the recent news coverage of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America. Having interned at St. Anthony’s in San Francisco, one of the premier social outreach institutions for homeless individuals, Katie intends to spend a few years working in the non-profit world before pursuing a career as a professor of Sociology.