MA in Sociology

Melissa Paluch, 2018

Melissa Paluch

My path to George Mason University was a bit untraditional, having started my Master of Arts degree in Sociology much later in life. I initially graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Health Policy and Administration.  And as a first-generation college student, I was mired by student loan debt that precluded me from moving on to future studies immediately.

An inquisitive person by nature, I gradually began to settle into market research roles, but had no formal training in market research. What I like about market research is “telling the story of the data” and finding nuance.  I also have a strong interest in people and learning about similarities and differences in their behavior.  Having no formalized training in a research discipline limited the roles that I could take on, so I began to ponder research-oriented Masters’ degrees. 

Reflecting on my interests even in high school, I really enjoyed social studies and even in my spare time as an adult enjoyed reading about research studies reported on in the Atlantic or Psychology Today. I also thoroughly enjoyed my Sociology course in college, even re-reading one of my books prior to the final exam.

First though, I needed to build my confidence to take on a Master’s degree.  Thus, I started my educational journey by earning a graduate certificate in survey design and data analysis from George Washington University in 2015.  And then I pursued my Master of Arts in Sociology at George Mason.

Earning the Master’s of Sociology from George Mason University in 2018 helped me understand more about social phenomena and even made me hirable for a faculty position in a market research role at Virginia Tech and later as a market researcher at Academic Partnerships. The media was abuzz about the phenomenon of the gig economy, while I was pursuing my Master’s degree.  Having experienced the precarity and competitiveness of the working world first-hand, I was particularly drawn to the work assigned by my professor, The New Spirit of Capitalism written by sociologists’ Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello.  Their analysis of management texts explained the unravelling of the employee and employer contract.  This led me to explore the gig economy through the lens of their work in my capstone, which was quite instrumental in earning my first job after graduate school, as it demonstrated my ability to analyze survey data and secondary data into a compelling story.