Joseph Nathan Cohen

Department of Sociology, CUNY Queens College, New York, NY

The Lives of our Graduate Students

I caught a back-stage glimpse of our students on YouTube.

Last night, I was working on our department’s web page. I was looking for an old video that I wanted to embed on our website. And I happened upon this gem. Four grad students did a YouTube roundtable to discuss their work and academic lives while in our program. It was a backstage pass into their lives while studying in the program. I loved it.

I was also really surprised at the film editing skill of Steven Kurniawan, who apparently is a low-key content creator on top of being a quantitative analyst at Nielsen Research (the “Neilsen Ratings” people).

The video is a great resource for prospective and current students. It’s an opportunity to hear people’s take on living and building a professional life in NYC while studying. What I like about it is that Steven, Hamza, Andreas, and Theo embody (at least my idealized view of) our program’s culture, which focuses on accomplishing real things in the real world, and doing it by taking charge of your life, upgrading your skills, and learning to do more and better things.

Check out Steven’s video. The guys are happy to be graduating, and they follow up with a great discussion of balancing work, school, and building a life as a young person in New York City. They work hard and struggle, but my guess is that, when they are middle-aged (like me) and looking back, they will be happy to be making these kinds of investments in building their careers. One of my favorite sentiments expressed when Andreas talks about how just getting set up here in New York City is a great accomplishment. I’m 100% with him. I also wanted to emigrate to New York City when I was young, and building a life here felt like a big accomplishment in and of itself for me. Many of my students have no idea how it is their very good fortune to be born into an economically vibrant and opportunity-filled region.

I enjoyed this opportunity to look at our program’s culture from the outside. The best part is looking at a part of the culture that is not directed towards you, and still liking and agreeing with everything you see. The students come to class already engaged in real world tasks, or at least ready to take on these kinds of tasks. We run all our classes after 6PM so that you can keep your day schedule open for opportunities. If you take classes with me, I have clear ideas about the skills that I want you to command by the end of the semester, and we can adjust the timing of your work to the larger schedule of the semester. Our goal is to impart useful skills that will empower you to accomplish valuable tasks and ultimately move closer to your personal definition of success.

Also, it merits underscoring that this is also a type of college experience that is also coming out of the sociology discipline. It is rooted in sociology’s theoretical and methodological traditions rather than politics. These traditions are at the foundations of many practically-focused academic disciplines, like marketing, human resources management, survey and public opinion research, mass communications, social work, education, criminology, and many others. I readily concede the fact that there are entire communities within this discipline that are absolutely insane (forget about scientifically competent). However, there are also many excellent sociology programs that are built on the kind of student culture that more closely resembles this roundtable.

I await the launch of their podcast.

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