Social cymbals. Laura's sociology thesis looked at the experiences of African immigrants in Portland. Away from the classroom, she did rock-climbing and belly dancing. Photo by Matt D'Annunzio
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Adviser: Prof. Marc Schneiberg [sociology 2000–]
Thesis: “African Immigration and Assimilation to Portland, Oregon”
What it’s about: I conducted interviews with recent African immigrants about their experiences of assimilation in Portland, with whom they build connections, and how they identify themselves. I talked to them about how they have been welcomed by the mainstream white, African American, and emergent African communities, as well as any sources of tension or conflict they have experiencead.
What it’s really about: Being an immigrant is rough but family and friends make it better.
Who I was when I got to Reed: A recent prep school escapee, I was a Gothlette with a lot of questions about social structure and hierarchy.
Influential book: School-Smart and Mother-Wise by Wendy Luttrell is about teenage pregnancy, how people react to it, and the economic and social consequences of those reactions on young women.
Favorite spot: The Pollock Room in the library is a great place to read, gather your thoughts, and enjoy the light through the skylights. It is also home to a selection of newspapers, magazines, and a small collection of collected books like How to Cook a Wolf, the complete Harry Potter series, and Big Cats of Africa.
Cool stuff I did: Learned how to rock climb and conduct research with human subjects. Worked in the admission office and really loved doing interviews with students because I got to find out what gets them excited, what they are fluent in, and what kinds of things they’d like to study.
Obstacles I overcame: Lyme disease is something you get from a tick. The disease taught me that my body matters, and Reed provided ways for me to take care of it. I found students to run, bike, and do yoga with. My belly and modern dance classes were out of this world.
How Reed changed me: It gave me a tool belt of communication and analysis skills that I can apply wherever I go. I’m better at negotiating a conversation and getting my point across. I know how to create a conversation that will be productive.
What I would tell prospies: Dive in—you will be surprised what you are capable of! The key to success at Reed is balance. There’s an old Woody Guthrie song about “eight hours of work, eight hours of play, and eight hours of sleep.” I aim for that, but at Reed it’s probably more like 10 hours of work, six hours of play, and, being a sleeper, I get eight hours of sleep.
What’s next: Relax, repeat, then apply to graduate school and get my thesis ready to be presented at social science conferences in the fall!
Video by Tony Moreno