My time in undergrad

September 15th, 2023 Tagged with: meta

I had a longer post about this, then thought it was cringe and deleted. I still want to say a few things about this because my time in college is obviously part of who I am, and in case other people stumble across this blog.

I went to Yale, a school that has strong traditions. About half of all seniors are in secret societies, everyone goes to the Harvard-Yale game, the residential college system is a central point of many Yalies’ social lives, there are very popular classes that are considered rites of passage for different tracks (Psychology and the Good Life, the intro Econ sequence, CS223 and 323 for some folks), etc. I wasn’t really involved in any of that, which in hindsight I regret and wish I did. But of course it’s not a bad thing in and of itself. I did make friends that I cherish a lot and who form a core part of my social life now.

I majored in the Ethnicity, Race, & Migration and Statistics & Data Science programs. The obtuse names are kind of reflective of the uniquely interdisciplinary and very academic learning experiences I had. Again, that is both good and bad, for example I know much less than some people who focused solely on data science with the intent on going into industry, but I also can say much more about Fisher/Galton/Pearson/etc and their eugenicist roots. Overall it makes me a good fit for where I am now, working with groups like the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and the Distributed AI Research Institute, and in my PhD program at UMich. The lack of allegiance to disciplinary boundaries I have usually appreciated, since I now find myself having skills like web development and some proficiency in server work that I would not have cared about if I were more closely focused on sociological methods. But it has hurt me in my grad school application process — I applied to mostly sociology programs, yet majored in things only adjacent to sociology and I was not interested in core sociology topics (health, census-style measurements of race, inequality in the specific sense sociology discusses) nor its canonical methods (OLS, survey, interview, ethnography). Being more all-over-the-place now means that I have worked on random projects without a true research direction, another thing which has its perks and drawbacks.

If you’re reading this as someone more junior, I’m not sure what I can offer in terms of advice but am definitely happy to talk more about undergrad and going to grad school.