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November 13, 2012 / brockportsociology

Brockport Sociology Alumna Spotlight–Rebekah Orr

We are starting a new series intending to highlight some of the places our alumni choose to go after graduating, and we plan to share the experiences of students who have entered a variety of careers. Our first spotlight focuses on a student who pursued graduate school after graduating from Brockport.

Some of our students apply to graduate programs in a variety of different fields, but Rebekah Orr chose to go on to study sociology in a graduate program.  Rebekah’s currently teaching an online course with us and will also be offering a course in the Women and Gender Studies program this spring (2013)–“Feminist Theory.”  We asked her to reflect on her time here at Brockport, what valuable lessons she learned, how she decided to move on to graduate school, to share some tips on applying to graduate school, and to tell us a bit about her dissertation research.

Who is Rebekah Orr?

I graduated from Brockport with a dual degree in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies in May of 2008.  I was encouraged pretty early on in my career at Brockport to consider graduate school.  Thankfully, faculty in both Sociology and Women and Gender Studies saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in myself quite yet. During my junior year I was given the opportunity to participate in some original research with Professor Joan Spade. We presented our findings at the annual Eastern Sociological Society meeting.  It was a really exciting experience for me, and caused me to realize that I LOVED doing research and I loved being a part of an intellectual/academic community.  The experience really solidified my desire to go to graduate school.

I am currently in my fifth year as a PhD student at Syracuse University, and have recently defended my dissertation proposal and achieved ABD status.  I am currently beginning fieldwork and data collection for my dissertation project on LGBTQ heritage organizations and their role in building and supporting queer communities.  I miss a lot about the College, but I think what I miss most is the small, intimate atmosphere of the campus.  There really is a sense of community at Brockport–especially in the Sociology department, and that’s something I came to really appreciate during my time there.

What was your favorite course in the Sociology department at Brockport and why?

There were so many courses that I loved in the Sociology department at Brockport, but I think my favorite course was Dr. Kaldor’s “Social Theory” course.  It was by far the most challenging class that I took at Brockport, but I worked hard and I excelled in it and it became a moment of, wow, I can do this!  I get this!  I really appreciated Dr. Kaldor’s teaching style.  He had a way of connecting what seemed like really ancient and outdated theory with our everyday lives.  When a professor has a passion for a subject–any subject–they can bring that subject to life for their students.  This is something I strive for as I have begun to teach my own classes.

What made you decide to double-major in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies?  Did you feel as though the two majors worked well together?  Why?

Well, I’m a fickle lady and I always have two loves at once…  But really, in all honesty, I feel as though Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies are a perfect match.  They complement and build off of each other in a way that worked really well for me.  I came to Brockport with the intention of earning a Social Work degree, but I was randomly placed in Professor Weininger’s “Introduction to Sociology” course my first semester at Brockport.  I knew immediately that I had found my “thing.”  I was drawn to the study of inequality and to the activist underpinnings of sociological inquiry.  But the study of gender inequality was what most resonated with me  and that lead me to an “Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies” course.  Again, it was love at first sight!

Tell us a bit about your application process to graduate school.  Do you have any advice for students considering applying to Masters or Doctoral programs?

Applying to graduate school was one of the most intense times in my life.  It was simultaneously terrifying and exciting.  I was really lucky–and all of you current Brockport Sociology major and minors are too–to have a really excellent group of faculty members who were incredibly supportive throughout the entire application process.  I don’t think there was a single faculty member in the department at that time who didn’t sit down and patiently answer my questions, read over drafts of my application materials, and reassure me that I was indeed smart enough and prepared for graduate school.  So on to the advice:

  • Utilize the faculty–Each and every faculty member went through this process and has a wealth of valuable advice and insight into what you’re going through now.
  • Be organized–If you’re applying to more than a few graduate programs the application materials and different deadlines can quickly become overwhelming.  Find an organization system that works for you, and stick with it.  Time spent organizing yourself will absolutely save you time later on, and it will likely save you a nervous breakdown.
  • Believe in yourself–Have faith in yourself and in your training from the Sociology department at Brockport.  You are good enough, you are smart enough, and you’ve been prepared to succeed in graduate school.

What are you studying and why is it important?

My dissertation research looks at a variety of organizations working to document and preserve the multiple histories of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender folks, and the role of those organizations in creating and supporting queer communities.  This research is important for a variety of reasons, one of the most important being that the positive aspects of queer communities have historically been understudied in our field.  Recognizing the important work of LGBTQ organizations is essential to fair and accurate representations of LGBTQ individuals and communities.  Finally, exploring the role of history and memory in contemporary subcultures and communities is a key contribution of this research project.

Returning to Brockport, what are you most excited about?  How do you feel about teaching in a department from which you were graduated?  What are you teaching and what can students expect?

Returning to Brockport as in instructor and not a student has been kind of a “trippy” experience.  Arriving on campus to pick up my faculty parking permit and my faculty ID four years after leaving Brockport as a new graduate felt like something out of “The Twilight Zone.”  I am most excited to have the opportunity to work with and impact current Brockport students the way that the Brockport Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies faculty impacted me as an undergraduate.  I’m also really excited about garbage plates!

I am currently teaching an online section of “SOC395–Sociology of the Life Course,” and I will be teaching a section of “Feminist Theory” on campus this Spring.  Students enrolling in my classes can expect to be challenged, to laugh, and to approach a variety of topics in creative ways.  I always strive to create a collaborative learning environment where students teach as much as they learn.

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If you’re one of our alumni, and you’re interested in being featured, we’d love to hear from you and for you to share some of what you’ve learned since graduation with our current students.  Click here for more information on the blog, and email either Professor Melody Boyd (mboyd@brockport.edu) or Professor Tristan Bridges (tbridges@brockport.edu) to get things started.  We’d love to hear from you!

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