Abigail “Abbi” Ray knows one thing for sure: that she wants to help people.
“I don’t know which path I will take following grad school, but I know that whatever career I choose, I will be choosing it in order to help those who have been overlooked,” she says.
“Sociology looks at societies as a whole, and how people interact with one another in the communities they have created,” she said. “I see my minor as a way to dive deeper and look at two minority groups who have grown strong throughout our history by supporting others who have faced the same struggles.”
A Fulfilling Major & Minor
Abbi came into her college experience thinking there was only one way to achieve her goals.
“I had originally decided to go to UL Lafayette to study nursing,” she said. “I had gone into nursing because that was the only concrete way to help people that I was sure about when I went into college, but while sitting through this class, I realized I found no fulfillment working in the sciences.
“One day I was sitting in my anatomy class and decided that I was not meant to be in the medical field,” she said. “I was enrolled in SOCI 241 (Social Problems) the same semester and found myself very attracted to the material we were learning. That day, I made the decision to change majors!
“I found myself waking up every day excited to learn whatever was being taught, and realized I felt so much happier in a field that dealt with people in a more right-brain way,” she said.
Abbi also found meaning and happiness when she discovered the gender and sexuality studies minor.
“I have always been drawn towards supporting the female community as a group,” she said. “In high school, I started the first girls’ retreat in order to create a sense of strength in sisterhood within my school community.
“I was ecstatic to know that I could study something that would be able to help me be able to support the women I came into contact with,” she said.
Supportive Faculty & Classes
The fulfillment Abbi gets from her education is amplified by the faculty in her department.
“My professors always had open doors (literally and figuratively) to welcome me in and show me a home,” she said. “While doing an independent study with Dr. Jo Derouen regarding my thesis, she was willing to open the computer lab for me throughout Christmas break and sit with me to sift through hundreds of essay responses.
“Drs Derouen, Pearce, and Kalich received countless emails from me with titles like ‘PANIC!!!’ followed by strings of questions and exclamation points, and each time my emails received calm and loving responses, truly showing how much they cared about my success,” she said.
“I believe that no other program focuses on graduating their students not only as more knowledgeable, but also more caring and accepting,” she said. “For this reason, I will be forever grateful for the people in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Human Development & Family Science.”
With classes focused on topics like Death and Dying (SOCI 480) and Queer Theory (SOCI 354), Abbi has found comfort and support while she has grown and matured.
“Many of the classes that I took not only focused on the curriculum but focused on growing its students into adults who will go out and change their communities for the better,” she said. “My sociology classes have taught me how to act with compassion and understanding, and how to step into another’s perspective before acting."
“Previously spending my entire educational career at a Catholic school, it blew me away to be able to learn about the sociology of sex in a classroom setting,” she said. “For the first time, my mind was stretched and expanded, and this really changed the course of my life.”
Embracing All Parts of Herself
Because of what she has learned at UL Lafayette, Abbi has grown to see her hometown in a new way.
“I have lived in this city my whole life,” she said, “but my college experience really differed from the way I lived in high school.
“Growing into a person who learned not only how to accept my sexuality but find a home within the queer community was truly an eye-opening experience,” she said.
“Staying here, in all honesty, was not my first choice,” she said. “But staying in this city and growing to see it in a new light was such a beautiful experience. It has shown me what this community has to offer, and that each person can find a home in which they are loved and accepted for who they are.
“Studying at UL Lafayette has helped to combine my southern background with more progressive ways of thinking, showing me that change can be good, and that support is always around the corner as long as you open yourself to finding it,” she said.