STC Sociology students set to compete nationally in Tampa
For the first time in South Texas College history, Sociology students are gearing up to attend the Association of Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS) 2023 annual conference taking place in Tampa, Fla. Oct. 26-28. STC will be the only two-year institution competing at the event, meant to provide students with the opportunity to utilize their sociological skills, experience teamwork and network with the next generation of practicing sociologists. Left to right, Taylor Wurm, Claudia Ginez and Cristian Mandujano.
For the first time ever, South Texas College Sociology students will vie against top universities in a national student team competition dedicated to engaging youth, ages 18 to 24, in civil liberty issues.
STC will be the only two-year institution competing at the event with three students: Cristian Mandujano, Claudia Ginez, and Taylor Wurm, going against university teams from across the nation at the Association of Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS) 2023 annual conference taking place in Tampa, Florida Oct. 26-28.
At the conference, they will compete in AACS’s Client Program Competition (CPC) meant to provide students with the opportunity to utilize their sociological skills, experience teamwork and network with the next generation of practicing sociologists.
Applied Sociology is the branch of Sociology with the goal to solve real-world problems for clients, companies and community groups through sociological principles and skills.
“Their concern is how they can get youth ages 18 to 24 to engage more intently in civil liberties issues, and Florida is a hotbed for these issues currently,” said STC Sociology instructor Jenny Chamberlain. “From banning critical race theory and designating certain topics that can be taught in the high schools, from concerns about sexual orientation and gender identity in the state, as well as editing textbooks, our sociology students will be in the middle of these critical issues.”
Most of the people who are on the teams at the competition are going to be people who are juniors and seniors who are close to graduation with a bachelor's degree, but we’re the only associate degree program that will be there to represent our region.
The Client Problem Competition (CPC) is a student team competition consisting of three or four undergraduate students, under the guidance of a faculty member attempting to solve an AACS client problem. The 2023 client this year is the Florida American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The teams will present their solution to the entire conference in attendance. The winning team’s university or college will receive a plaque, and the members of the team will be awarded with free membership to AACS, which is the national professional community for those entering the field.
“Receiving membership to AACS is huge because they will receive access to all these resources that can help them as they look to enter graduate school,” Chamberlain said. “Most of the people who are on the teams at the competition are going to be people who are juniors and seniors who are close to graduating with a bachelor's degree, but we’re the only associate degree program that will be there to represent our region.”
Wurm will be a student presider at the conference, and Mandujano will be presenting three papers about her research to those in attendance. She will be the sole presenter in one session, the lead presenter in another and will be a co-presenter with Chamberlain in a final workshop.
Wurm, who plans to graduate from STC in the spring, said her experiences at the college when it comes to diversity and appreciation for culture are what separates Valley students from their peers across the nation.
“We have come together to make a winning team because we all have very different perspectives in life that we can use to represent our region of the RGV,” said Wurm. “This experience will give me the opportunity to network and spread my knowledge about Sociology and what I have learned from being a student at STC. I have grown up with a different perspective, and I have learned the importance of diversity from the culture around me and I value each culture for what they are.”
Chamberlain describes the competition as a “David versus Goliath” moment that can help students get into a graduate program.
“Our students will be presenting at three different workshops, most people never get a chance to present at a national conference like this until they are finishing a graduate degree,” said Chamberlain. “Taylor (Wurm) will be a presider at one of the workshops, so she will be there introducing professors and clinicians, and she will in charge of maintaining order in the workshop. If you can say you've participated in a conference, let alone presented at one, that's a huge thing that can help you get into a very good graduate school.”
Not only is this the first time Sociology students compete in the AACS event, this fall semester also marks the first semester that the program has begun accepting majors and offering classes for the Applied Sociology track.
STC’s Sociology program is the first Associate Degree Track for Applied Sociology in the nation recognized by AACS. The program is under the Sociology associate degree, which now has two tracks: Traditional Sociology and the brand-new Applied Sociology track.
“Applied Sociology is all about using your sociological skills to solve real-life everyday problems, so not only is this new track helping to professionalize our students so they can go and find jobs, they are also seeing ways that sociology can be used in everyday life,” Chamberlain said. “In a nutshell, in this new Applied Sociology track, they get exposure to a career field, but they also learn what the problems and challenges are, so they get to contribute in their field of study.”