Alumna Success Spotlight: Elisabeth Callahan, Sociology Major and 2011 Graduate
March 07, 2013
Picking a major is an important decision, and many students stress and worry about which major to dedicate their college career to. A common misconception about college students who are undecided and have not declared a major is that they are lost or lack direction with school.
Elisabeth Callahan, a 2011 graduate of UW-Whitewater, is a successful Project Coordinator at Baird Group, a medical consulting firm in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. With her brightly painted office, knowledge of her trade and confident smile, one would never guess she was at one time one of those same undecided students.
In 2008, Callahan transferred to UW-Whitewater from UW-Milwaukee, searching for smaller classroom sizes and big opportunities. “When I first got to college I was really overwhelmed,” Callahan said. “There were tons of different directions I could go in. With all the labels attached to majors and minors in terms of careers, I just didn’t see where I fit and just kept saying I was undecided.”
But Callahan did know two things for certain. She loved to write and had a passion to help people. Everything changed for her when she took an Introductory Sociology class as a professor told her something very important: if you learned anything in this class, it’s that life is not fair. And after everything she was taught in the course, she realized her interest was sparked and her class had made a difference.
“I realized that Sociology could be the path that I take to understand how the world works, realize how people act, comprehend social phenomenon that lead people to where they are in life and ultimately learn how I could help people.”
After that semester, Callahan declared her major in Sociology and her minor in English writing. As Callahan kept her options open, more opportunities began to present themselves. During her Technical and Scientific Writing course, she created a resume and cover letter for a mock job offer. While grading her final project, her professor pulled her aside to let her know of a career that might fit her interests and qualifications.
“I thought it sounded great, and I ended up getting an interview here and a second interview there, and I finally landed the job. I thought that the job would only play off my English writing minor,” Callahan said. “But it turned out I was wrong. The more I learned about this job, the more I realized it incorporates both my major and my minor.”
Baird Group has two divisions. The mystery shopping division assesses the quality of care that patients receive at hospitals, from phone calls from patients for appointments or questions to the quality and care of procedures such as surgeries. Staff from Baird Group goes in and secretly will evaluate all of these levels. The second division is the consulting department. The consultants talk to internal staff, including physicians and managers, and give their findings in the form of reports and presentations to their clients.
“There is a lot of research methodology, data analysis and ethnography information that ties into my Sociology major, but I do a lot of writing of surveys and editing of data that stems from my experience from my English minor.”
Callahan says her secret to success has been the many opportunities she took advantage of during her college career while keeping an open mind and not sticking to a defined path, including scholarships, letters of recommendation from professors she networked with, and a semester abroad to Ghana, West Africa.
“Get in the mindset that even though most people are going to school to get a job, it shouldn’t be all about your vocational priorities. Don’t think of it as just going from point A to point B,” Callahan said. “Realize that your education can be so much more than just preparing yourself for a job, and you won’t just do average. If you realize that the journey itself is worthwhile and make connections with professors, you’ll find paths that ultimately lead you to a job.”
As for Sociology, Callahan is happy with her degree choice and would recommend it to other students considering it as a potential major. “The thing about sociology is that it is so versatile. You can use your degree to work with practically almost any job. It shouldn’t be looked at as if you go into sociology, there’s nothing to use your degree for. It’s the exact opposite. Don’t worry about not being able to find a job or not having a job fit within your degree, because it will.”
Callahan never saw herself working in a health care field, but she has come to realize that both her studies and new career have piqued a new interest for her. “This job has given me hope that I could even go into sociology of health as my graduate degree. That’s one of the biggest things. I didn’t see where I was going but I didn’t limit myself by not taking an opportunity.”
Article Written by Eleanor Jacobson, L&S Media