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Sociology student passionate about preventing domestic and gender-based violence

Online student Rishita Rudraraju to begin graduate school for social work

April 17, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

With so many diverse career options available to students, uncovering individual passions and ambitions is crucial to shaping a fulfilling career path. Some students, like sociology student Rishita Rudraraju, discover a deep desire to make a difference in the lives of others — in her case, through helping them navigate trauma in a complicated world.

Headshot of Rishita Rudraraju
Rishita Rudraraju

As a high school student in Hyderabad, India, Rishita was drawn to human behavior and emotions, and psychology seemed like the perfect fit. During her application process, however, she stumbled upon sociology and became fascinated by its interplay between society and human behavior.  

“At the time, I did not know sociology could be taken as a major,” she says. “As I researched more, I realized that I wanted a more social approach to human behavior and interaction rather than the relatively isolated approach I was used to studying.”

Rishita attended an in-person university for two years but wanted to complete her bachelor’s degree in sociology online. After some research, she decided on ASU Online — a top choice for her major, she discovered — and the rest is history. 

Throughout her time at ASU, Rishita found ample resources to stay connected and involved as an online student. She wasn’t sure what to expect at first but soon became immersed in an environment that fostered her success.

“Throughout my journey at ASU, I found an incredible support system in the faculty,” she reflects. “My professors have been amazing and were really involved in my academic and personal development when I made the effort to maintain a relationship outside of class hours.

“(At first) I thought networking was something very few did and did not recognize its importance, but I found a really welcoming and supportive community that helped me explore my options.”

The connections she made not only supported her personally but opened doors for extracurricular involvement. As an online student, she completed an undergraduate research assistantship with the Arizona Youth Identity Project — an initiative studying youth identity in Arizona’s changing economic, demographic and political conditions — and two teaching assistantships. She also volunteered with the Office of Gender-Based Violence, where she aided in creating a prevention curriculum, focusing on healthy and unhealthy relationships. 

Through these experiences, she discovered her passion for supporting individuals grappling with domestic or gender-based violence and now plans to pursue a master's degree in social work. 

Below, Rishita offers insights into her journey at ASU and her aspirations for the future.

Note: Answers may have been edited slightly for length or clarity.

Question: What did you find most valuable in your sociology degree?

Answer: Having knowledge in both sociology and psychology has really helped me throughout my journey. As I took courses — especially those specific to my interests like the sociology of gender, victimization, criminology, and so on — I realized I was satisfied with my major throughout my undergraduate journey.

Since then, my passion for the field has only grown and allowed me to explore my interests. Sociology fostered a habit of critical thinking and advocacy that I am always improving on. Through conversations, I was able to reflect a lot on my experiences and the conflicts I experience in daily life. I felt validated and grew eager to learn about healthy ways to approach these conflicts.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Each of the professors and faculty I worked with taught me many things.

Dr. Stacie Foster has always been helpful. She is a lovely person to chat with and made me feel connected in an online environment. Dr. Jodi Swanson is a wonderful professor to work with as a TA. She gave me valuable insight into university applications and I really appreciated that as an international student. Dr. Emir Estrada was a highly involved professor. She taught me invaluable lessons about research and supported me through my graduate journey preparation as well. 

Professor Abraham Calderon-Martinez was a highly knowledgeable teacher who exposed me to a more macro outlook on social issues. He made time to meet with me every week in the session to simply have conversations on sociology and social justice, and I will always cherish these moments and the influence they have had on my outlook. Finally, I am extremely thankful to have met Alexandria Rogers from the Office of Gender-Based Violence at ASU. Working with her has been an incredible experience and really strengthened my interest in the field. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: As an online student, I was mostly confined to working and studying from my house, specifically my bedroom. And as much comfort as I find in that, I do wish I went out to study in spaces more (cafes, shared study spaces, and so on) simply because I probably would have been more productive and the change could have been good for my mental well-being. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: We are automatically forced into a singular path to follow all our lives, but deviating from that takes a lot of courage and strength that is deeply admirable. There is no single way to do things.

If you are actively stepping aside from a path and taking the risk to explore other areas, you should be proud of yourself. You are not deviating in a negative sense, but are rather making the conscious effort to live the life you want, which is so cool! Not knowing what you would like to do exactly throughout your life can be overwhelming, and the pressure to have everything figured out is scary. 

However, during this race, try to remind yourself of what you have achieved. Do all the things you want to if you can. Try to make time for things you love, whether academically or personally, without guilt. Whenever you want to reach out to others (students or faculty), try not to hesitate and remind yourself that there is no embarrassment in reaching out to make short- (and) long-term connections. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am happy to share that I got admitted to the University of Washington and the University at Buffalo for a Master of Social Work (MSW) starting this fall 2024 and am super excited to get into the field of social work. I am currently debating which university to attend. My areas of interest include gender-based violence, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and child and family dynamics. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge and experience in the field. 

Photography is another passion of mine, and I am hoping to focus more on it.

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