Hometown: Westville Grove, New Jersey
Currently: Senior at Vassar and Research Assistant for the Urban Studies department
Self-described: Introverted, empathetic, curious
Enjoys: Watching TV shows live on my laptop! Especially Jane the Virgin and American Horror Story. Watching it live on my laptop makes me feel like I'm at home. I also love baking.
"Don’t underestimate yourself. Sometimes you are your own obstacle to getting where you want to go."
Tell us about yourself!
Born and raised just east of Philadelphia in South Jersey, I’m currently a senior at Vassar College. Coming to Vassar, I wanted to be an English major because I love to read and write. Learning about the social sciences made me realize that I can do all of that with specific ideas, movements, and places in mind. Thus, I’m an Urban Studies major focusing on geography and political science. I spent the Spring 2017 semester studying in Havana, Cuba with the Autonomous University of Social Movements (and I would need a whole different post to describe that experience).
I am a first-generation, low-income college student, and a proud member of the Transitions community at Vassar. Currently, I am completing a senior thesis on the effects of mass incarceration on families and communities in Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, NY. When I’m not working on my thesis, reading for class, or doing research for the Urban Studies department, I love baking in my apartment and getting caught up on my shows!
Greatest source of inspiration
I love what I study and feel truly empowered to make my goals a reality. Looking back at all I have overcome reminds me that I am capable of doing all that I want to and more.
Greatest source of support
My family always believed in my abilities and were excited about whatever I wanted to do. I also credit a lot to my high school English teacher, who supported me endlessly and encouraged me every step of the way.
Major / Minor
Discovering new areas of study, approaches, scholars, and literature that I never knew existed. If you told me I’d be an Urban Studies major when I was in high school, I probably would have said, “what is that!?” Having so much knowledge available and knowing the possibilities of what I can do with it is exciting to me.
Least favorite thing
Being constantly scheduled. In college, it’s not unusual to feel like you should always be doing something.
I like to do reading in the daytime and writing at night. I think I’m more creative at night, and I really enjoy the writing process. I try to study in a quiet place with music and some tea. Changing up my study location when I’m not able to focus often helps a lot.
Tell us about a challenge you faced. How did you overcome it?
I felt very alone during my first year, and felt absolutely miserable by the end of the first semester. I really did not think I would be able to make friends who I felt cared about me. The next semester, I ended up exploring new opportunities and student organizations, and started to build a strong network of friends outside of my class year. This helped me gain a lot more perspective, which I needed. For me, that perspective was acknowledging that college isn’t a perfect experience, but there are amazing people out there who will support you through this journey.
How did you find your sense of belonging?
For me, this took a while. I was chosen to be an intern for Transitions, the program for first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students during my sophomore year, and that really changed the game. I was amazed by the first-year students and was proud that my experiences, both positive and negative, could be helpful to them. During the pre-orientation program, I was able to both be a leader and a member of a large team dedicated to making these students feel at home. As I offered students advice and encouragement, I realized that I did belong in this community and that I have a whole group of people to support me. I am still good friends with many of the fellow interns as well as the first-years, who are now juniors! We’ve grown so much together, and I’m endlessly grateful that I had that opportunity when I did.
What campus resources do you use?
I use the Writing Center, the Career Development Office, and bug my faculty advisors pretty frequently.
What advice would you give to your freshman-year self?
I would tell my younger self to reach out more. Don’t be afraid to ask for an extension, go to office hours, or ask for clarification on an assignment. These things are easier said than done, but I think I have almost mastered them. The sooner you realize that overcoming these fears and anxieties is necessary for your own happiness and success, the sooner you can work on it.
What's your secret for time management and productivity?
Stop trying to multitask! Attempting to multitask is often my productivity downfall. I’ve been using the Pomodoro method, and it has done wonders for my ability to accomplish one task at a time.
How do you de-stress?
Face masks, dim lights, and “Do Not Disturb” mode.
How do you stay motivated?
I try to remember why I am in college and the things that I love about it. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of that when you’re buried under reading after reading and feel exhausted. I really strive to take time for myself. If I am in a poor emotional state, I cannot do my best — I’m a student, not a machine. It’s important to realize that your professors know this and want to support you. As I’ve embraced that, I’ve felt more comfortable telling them what is going on in my academic life.
Short-term: Have an amazing, happy, and fulfilling senior year. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. Focus on the bigger picture.
Long-term: Pursue a career (or careers) that I LOVE combining activism and academia. Spend more time studying and living outside of the U.S. Attain fluency in Spanish.
Don’t underestimate yourself. Sometimes you are your own obstacle to getting where you want to go. Stop second-guessing yourself and know that you can make things happen because you already have come so far.
I could use some help with...
Finding a job or fellowship focused on prison abolition activism,
restorative justice practice, and/or social science research.
I am flexible location-wise, and love work that requires me to travel.
Connect with Sophia