Institution Reflection

Courses Relevant to Institutions

Sociology of Education 

This course was centered around the institution of education in America and other countries. We compared and contrasted the values in American schooling with other countries, as well as dove deeply into the inequalities that contribute to the achievement gaps. One main take away from this course for me was how ineffectively we fund schools in America. Basing per pupil spending on the property values that surround public schools leads to dramatic differences across different schools that are attempting to create a sense of standardized education. 

Sociology of Law

This course was centered around the institution of Law. We spent a lot of time discussing current issues before the law today, while also covering how some of the greats of sociology understood the law. In particular we learned and wrote about Max Weber, and the distinction he drew between rational and irrational law. 

LGBTQ+ and the Media

This course dove into the institution of media, particularly in the aspect of representation. We discussed tokenisms and tropes by viewing historic media examples of how LGBTQ+ characters have been portrayed for decades. One particular takeaway for me was the “Vito Russo Test,” with which you can evaluate LGBTQ+ characters in media to find out if they are just there to tick a diversity box, or if they’re written with real depth and meaning for the story. 

Fundamentals of Public Relations

This course covers the institution of media and how messages are transmitted from the media to the public, particularly for businesses and organizations. This communications class removed the stigma of deceit and blame shifting from public relations. Instead we learned how ethical mutually beneficial public relations can lead to positive impacts for businesses and their publics. For one presentation we had to choose a PR crisis that was handled poorly and craft a better solution. The Deep Water Horizon oil spill was the example I chose. I proposed that BP would have been better off using the public information model of communication that values honesty, transparency, and timeliness. 

Explorations in Environmental Science

I would consider this course relevant to the institution of government. Combatting the climate crisis requires major political involvement from the people in power. In this course we learned about some basic environmental science concepts like watersheds and biogeochemical cycling. The subject matter also covered our individual carbon footprint, with lessons also about how methane emissions from agriculture and carbon emissions from fossil fuel use are leading to climate change. These topics have vast impacts across many institutions such as economic and social as well. 

Social Inequality and Difference

This course discussed the social institutions that lead to inequality in our society. Race was a major discussion point in this course as it has a broad impact across many if not all institutions. The inequalities associated with race are man made and policy driven. It is a misconception that racism just exists within an individual level. We also discussed intersectionality in this course. This is a concept that explains how numerous parts of one’s identity can compound into layers of oppression and disadvantage in our society. 

Media and Democracy

This course discussed the institutions of government and media. What we learned in this course was just how codependent democratic government and news media are. We discussed how imperative it is to maintain and fund local news outlets. Without local news local government is not critiqued and policed. Our democracy at a macro level depends on these micro news efforts. We discussed the privatization of news outlets, and the functionality of the supreme court, among other riveting topics throughout the semester.

Research in the Social Sciences

This course centered around research relevant to the institution of the family. We worked with the local Head Start Program to gather data on parental involvement. In this course we learned how to craft an academic research paper through gathering our own qualitative and quantitative conclusions from a real life data set. This type of social research is done throughout many if not all institutions. 

Writing Samples Regarding Institutions

Op Ed Style Piece on Pre-Election Polling

This was the first time I had ever written an op-ed style piece in my college career. I chose it because it sticks out amongst other strictly research based writing I have done. I feel as though this is a good example of me using my own ideas to craft an argument that is not exclusively based upon academic research.

Judgment at Nuremberg Paper on International Law

I chose this paper due the challenge of a low word count with a dense subject matter. This writing required me to be succinct and discouraged me from being verbose. The subject matter of international law as it related to an infamous trial was intriguing and unique amongst other papers I have written. 

Sociology 345 Final Paper: Stimulating Parental Involvement in Pre-Kindergarten Aged Children

This paper was an easy choice as it was my first full length research paper. This task required me to find the academic voice I was so familiar with reading in the works of others. 

Reflection on these 3 Selections:

These three examples represent 3 years of growth, from my sophomore to senior year at Longwood. I have found that my strength was in academic style writing rather than creative. The opinion piece was out of my comfort zone and required me to have conviction in claims that were my own. I typically have a tendency to succeed in word counts in many cases by over-explaining concepts in my writing. The Judgment at Nuremberg paper required me to write about international law (a subject I knew little about prior to the course) in essentially as few words as possible. This places an emphasis on word choice and the organization of the paper. The final research paper from sociology 345 is perhaps my best example of my academic voice. A high level of knowledge in the discipline is always evident when reading peer reviewed academic literature. I attempted to hone in on this tone by truly becoming proficient in the subject matter. My growth as a writer is reflected in the confidence that comes through in the sociology 345 research paper. 

What I Have Learned About Institutions


The media is a complex institution that I have covered from many different angles while at Longwood. My Honors 395 Media and Democracy class notably shifted my focus to the importance of local media.  I came to understand how our democracy is supported by an unbiased media that creates an informed public and holds public figures accountable. I have discovered new concerns for how media today is disseminated across new social media platforms.  For example, the issue of censorship and how it may be essential to dissuade the spread of misinformation. Despite this seemingly rational response to contagious circulating fake news stories, concerns with violating the first amendment put a halt to censorship solutions. I have begun to consume media more carefully with special attention to the source and intention behind the publication. Additionally I have decided to do my part in supporting local news outlets by vowing to be a subscriber to the local daily paper wherever I live. 


My attitudes towards the government have changed since I began studying sociology at Longwood. I have a newfound interest in public policy, specifically those that target the social issues discussed in my classes. Taking the racial wealth gap as an example, I begin to become frustrated when we can identify a glaringly obvious social concern that furthers inequality in our country, but the government response is slow moving and seemingly impactful. With that being said, more is required of me to be educated on just what both parties are proposing as solutions to these problems. This attention to detail has led me to make more informed voting decisions and invest more attention in elections outside of the primaries. I was also disheartened to learn about how historically policies have affected racial equality. Going to school in a town with so much history regarding desegregation, my eyes were opened to the institutional and generational effects that discriminatory policies have had on equality. I have considered the potential of a career in public policy as an attempt to become involved in the solutions to social problems. 


While I have never taken a course specifically geared towards this institution, the subject matter of our research in Sociology 345 allowed me to gain some perspective on social issues affecting families. The Virginia Head Start Program offers reduced rate or free early childhood education for working parents who cannot give their child the same educational resources at home before they start K-12 schooling. Our particular area of study was family involvement, which we learned is crucial to early childhood development. The crisis we encountered was how parental involvement levels can be high when opportunities for parent/child engagement is low due often to financial circumstances? Although our data size was small for our exercise, I came across research while writing my literature review that found significant data regarding the benefits of parental involvement on child academic achievement. These are aspects of familial relations that can be forgotten about for students like myself who grew up with the privilege of a middle class household. As is often the case for me, my attention goes immediately to what kinds of public policies or programs like Head Start, exist to address these issues? I then grapple with the question of whether using my vote to get the right people in power is doing enough to have contributed towards addressing the social issues that plague our society. 


Sociology of education was a course I recently took that enlightened me on the social issues in the area of education. In New Jersey where I grew up, property taxes within multi town zones are allocated to the schools that need it in an attempt to create some degree of education equality. Even this solution is not entirely efficacious however, and doesn’t even work this way in Virginia school districts. Important questions are raised about how to combat educational inequality like using tax money to fund school vouchers that offer more opportunity to give each child a best fitting education. Indeed once again I am left with the knowledge of how yet another institution is deeply flawed and contributing to crippling inequality.

How My Career Path Will Reflect My Institutional Knowledge

 I do not intend to suggest that my studies of sociology at Longwood have left me discouraged now that the ills of our society are apparent to me. Rather I am left with a desire and a sense of obligation to explore a career path that confronts these social issues with innovative solutions. I believe my personal strengths are in the area of communication. I feel my most confident in the classroom when giving a presentation that I have spent hours preparing for, and fielding questions from intrigued classmates with whom I have inspired curiosity in the subject matter.  I feel drawn perhaps towards marketing as it would allow me to use my skills to reach a broad audience regarding an important issue. I feel drawn to being a part of the solutions to the conditions that create inequality that stratifies our society. I believe I would have a hard time executing my duties as an employee for a company that functions without regard for the institutional problems that exist before us. Nonprofits and government work intrigue me because I believe in those areas I can be a part of creating a future for this country that values equality first and foremost. 
The government as an institution is an area in which my studies in sociology can directly lend themselves to skills to support a career choice. Specifically, Sociology 345 Research in the Social Sciences, and 346 Applied statistics are classes that provided me the most marketable hard skills of any of my sociology courses. Soc 345 provided me an initial understanding of compiling and producing social research. This kind of skill is useful for jobs at government agencies and non profit companies. The data analysis skills I acquired from Soc 346 are a good foundation for the types of skills needed to be a data analyst. As an occupation, data analysts are in high demand in many fields especially government agencies.