A data centered, career forward class

An innovative capstone course ensures that sociology students put their learning into practice and launch into satisfying careers.

students standing together with green plants behind Prof. Kate Linnenberg and her sociology students do work in the community garden.

During their time at Beloit, sociology majors dig deep into the texts of their field, build skills in qualitative and quantitative methodology, and above all, use their sociological imagination. An innovative capstone course ensures that sociology students put this learning into practice, launching into satisfying careers.

Professor of Sociology Kate Linnenberg designed the capstone course, which is taught each fall semester, to help students feel prepared for their lives after Beloit College. Each semester, the course partners with an organization, and the students develop career-forward skills in a semester-long project. Depending on the project, students focus in different areas, using the skills they have developed in their sociology classes. In one recent year, students used their quantitative methods skills to analyze survey data and produce reports with recommendations. This semester, students are bringing their qualitative skills to an organization supporting students who have gotten off track to finish high school, Community Action’s Fresh Start, and are finding opportunities for job shadowing, career exploration, and community-building.

“At Fresh Start, I think my students learn at least as much from their students as their students do from mine,” said Kate. “And they learn how this program is organized, and think about how the structure of the program helps effect change in the lives of the Fresh Start students.”

No matter the specific topic of the course, Kate makes sure that students realize that the quantitative and data oriented skills they have developed at Beloit College will be valuable to the marketplace. Staff members and alumni who work with data, often in campus offices like Institutional Research or Admissions, come to class for a Question & Answer session about how they use data in their jobs and share with students pathways into that kind of work.

Senior Sociology student Shakira Wilson ’24 reflected on the ways that the course has influenced her internship, also at Community Action. “I like engaging with people. When we started talking about data and how it was connected, I started to realize how numbers matter. Now at my internship, I find myself counting and keeping track of things in a different way than before.”

student with a white sweater standing in a hallway in the Powerhouse Shakira Wilson’24 is enrolled in the sociology capstone course.

In this course, students have the opportunity to learn from alumni, and build networking skills. Kate assigns student pairs to contact alumni with careers in data and conduct an informational interview to learn how alumni translated their experiences at Beloit into various careers. In class assignments, students draft questions to ask the alumni and work collaboratively on how to overcome their challenges. Students attend Career Works sessions about building their mentor network and using LinkedIn to connect with alumni, so they feel prepared to take the next steps in their career. The experience of conducting these interviews gives students the confidence – and the skills – to build their professional network for their first job, and beyond.

October 03, 2023


Kate Linnenberg

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