Miah Hagood entered Rutgers with a strong interest in law and a passion for social justice.
Once she began taking courses in the Department of Sociology, she knew she had found the ideal major.
Sociology appealed to Hagood in many ways. She admired her professors, enjoyed the in-depth focus on social issues, and relished the opportunity for deep reading and research. She was especially drawn to the probing ways in which sociologists study the world and make findings that can raise awareness and spur change.
“From reading sociologists such as C. Wright Mills I learned that what might seem like private troubles can actually be public matters,” Hagood says. “That’s very compelling because it allows me to look at issues, such as unemployment, from a much broader perspective that ultimately recognizes social patterns.”
Now a senior, Hagood is double majoring in sociology and criminal justice with a minor in Africana studies. She plans to become a lawyer and hopes one day to work on the front lines for social change. Hagood says that the reading, writing, analytical thinking, and probing discussions that are part of the sociology experience at Rutgers have prepared her well for law school, and for a law career that will contribute to the greater good.
“Sociology trains my mind and shapes my worldview,” she says. “It’s important for me to use my Rutgers degree to help others, such as representing indigent clients or people who are disadvantaged.”
Indeed, one of the first sociology courses she took was “Race Relations,” which included an eye-opening case study on Hurricane Katrina.
“We explored that question of how people can live in the same regional area, experience the same storm, but have totally disparate outcomes,” she said. “It was fascinating.”
This year she was accepted into the department’s senior honors program and is working on a major research paper on natural disasters that will explore those issues in greater detail, focusing on the role of community organizations such as food pantries, homeless shelters, and places of worship. Hagood will be interviewing local organizations in New Brunswick for the paper, which will be presented this spring at the department’s colloquium and at the Undergraduate Aresty Symposium.
In addition to her studies, Hagood also served as an intern at Somerset County Superior Court, Criminal Division, where she conducted legal research, helped write motions, and observed court proceedings.
Watching what happens in the courtroom, Hagood says it often dawns on her how much her sociology background has helped her develop as an intellectually curious and empathic adult. She notes, for example, that she sees many people caught up in the criminal justice system who are struggling with mental health problems.
“That to me raises some very real questions about the healthcare system and how the availability of mental health services can have an impact on the criminal justice system,” she says. “When you understand the background, you view things from a larger perspective, and it makes you more compassionate.”