BOONE, N.C. — When Tatum Schwartz arrived at Appalachian State University she did not anticipate launching a clothing drive for migrant families or assisting in a research study on the lingering impacts of a global pandemic — two of her most meaningful experiences as a sociology major, she said. Sampling one introductory course in sociology, though, uncovered a passion for helping others.
In the Department of Sociology she has found, she said, the “human-centered major” she’d been looking for — sociology with a concentration in families and intimate relationships.
Schwartz performs well academically, maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average. “Every semester I’m surprised, but I am definitely happy about it,” said Schwartz, who grew up in Chapel Hill. And, her faculty speak highly of her.
“Tatum is a driven, compassionate and hardworking student,” said lecturer Amber Gregory, who said she was impressed with Schwartz’s leadership skills in organizing a class drive in 2019 to support migrant workers who come to work the Christmas tree farms in Ashe and Watauga counties.
Dr. David Russell, who hired Schwartz as a research assistant in 2020–21, concurs: “Tatum exemplifies the best qualities of a sociology major — someone who is analytical and curious about the social world around us.”
Service and undergraduate research opportunities
Service-learning and undergraduate research are among the hallmarks of the Appalachian Experience. Schwartz has experienced both as a sociology major.
Migrant families who typically work in warm climates find it challenging to transport cold weather clothing when they travel to the mountains to work the local Christmas tree farms, Gregory explained. That’s why she had students in her fall 2019 Constructions of Gender course, which had a Latin American focus, consider this as an option for a service-learning requirement.
Schwartz called the drive “an amazing experience because we got to take the lead on it.”
She and her group mates organized a social media campaign, set up a donation station in the Plemmons Student Union and accepted donations from their peers through Venmo and PayPal.
“What really impressed me about Tatum was her leadership skills,” Gregory said. “Tatum and her group were extremely successful in the number of clothing and monetary donations for the local migrant workers.”
Schwartz is now assisting Russell and three faculty at other institutions with a study of COVID-19 “long-haulers,” a group of people who have had persistent and often debilitating symptoms associated with the disease. She and the faculty are exploring these individuals’ symptoms and interactions with health care professions.
The project is supported by a grant from App State’s University Research Council, which included funds to hire an undergraduate research assistant.
“I’m learning organizational skills, communication skills and how to recruit participants and organize data. Later, I will also transcribe interviews of participants, help analyze the data and assist with the writing for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal,” she said.
Russell said Schwartz has been instrumental on the project so far. “I have really enjoyed working with Tatum. I believe she has applied skills learned through her research methods courses that have aided us with managing this research project,” he said. “I am excited about working with Tatum on the next steps of our project.”
Caring and inspiring faculty
The Department of Sociology faculty are caring and inspiring — they help students identify their interests and guide them to internships and possible careers, Schwartz said.
“Sociology is a broad field, but App State’s faculty are all invested in specific disciplines, which is super interesting — such as criminology, families, health and aging. We become interested in what they’re interested in, and the different concentrations help students navigate the career direction they want,” she said.
After graduation, Schwartz said she plans to pursue a Master of Social Work degree to become a clinical social worker in a nonprofit organization addressing domestic violence, mental health or juvenile justice. As a dancer, she also has an interest in somatic, or movement, practices for therapy, she said.
This summer, Schwartz will complete an internship at The Gathering Place in Denver, Colorado — a daytime drop-in center that serves women, transgender individuals and their children who are experiencing poverty and/or homelessness.
Gregory, who is internship coordinator for the Department of Sociology, has worked closely with Schwartz in preparing for the internship.
“I am very proud of all the fantastic work Tatum has done as a sociology major. I know that only good things are coming her way,” Gregory said.
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About the Department of Sociology
The Department of Sociology offers a Bachelor of Arts and six Bachelor of Science concentrations (applied research methods; criminology, deviance and law; families and intimate relationships; health and aging; social inequalities; and individually designed, which requires departmental approval). The department also offers minors in sociology and health and aging, plus two online graduate certificates: aging, health and society, and sociology. Learn more at https://soc.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.