ASU grad passionate about people, society earns degree in sociology


Kayla Rene Lynn stands smiling in front of a building with "ASU" on the exterior

Kayla Rene Lynn will graduate this spring with a bachelor's degree in sociology. Courtesy photo

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

Kayla Rene Lynn’s academic journey has been shaped by profound moments of self-realization and a passion for social understanding. TheirLynn uses they/them pronouns. decision to pursue sociology was influenced by a transformative blend of experiences, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests.

Choosing Arizona State University's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences was a deliberate choice driven by their admiration for the West Valley campus and the interdisciplinary nature of the sociology program housed within.

Throughout their studies, Lynn's perspective has evolved, particularly through exposure to diverse perspectives and interdisciplinary approaches at New College. They credit Jay Taylor, assistant teaching professor of social and behavioral sciences, for teaching them valuable lessons about open-mindedness and kindness — essential qualities for navigating complex societal issues.

Looking ahead, Lynn envisions a future as a professor, aiming to educate and inspire individuals beyond the university setting.

New College has played a crucial role in shaping their aspirations, fostering an interdisciplinary outlook, and providing a platform for academic exploration.

As she prepares to gradate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, she reflects on her time at ASU and her plans after graduation.

Note: Answers have been lightly edited for length, clarity, or grammar.

Question: What was the moment when you realized the field that you wanted to study?

Answer: My moment was a mix of both COVID-19 and the George Floyd protests.

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a science person. I wanted to study chemistry. I considered forensic toxicology at one point. But once COVID-19 hit and I started seeing the protests more often, I realized that my true interest and passion lay in people — understanding people in social movements and understanding why society is the way it is.

Q: What made you choose ASU’s New College?

A: I chose New College primarily because I love the West Valley campus. This campus is beautiful. It's stunning. I like how small it is compared to the one in Tempe or downtown, and I just think it was a perfect fit for me to be on this campus.

Secondly, because the sociology program is under the New College. I just really wanted to be at this campus, and I'm happy that I ended up where I am. I love the people here. All the people that I've met have been amazing. 

Q: What's something that you learned while at New College that surprised you, or changed your perspective? Why?

A: Something that I learned that changed my perspective at the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences is how to be interdisciplinary within my major. I very much was kind of those people who didn't see how the humanities and sciences could interact with each other. Being in New College, in the classroom with different people who are in different majors or maybe similar majors, has allowed me to see where the sciences can interact with the humanities or social sciences. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while in your college?

A: Probably Dr. Jay Taylor. Jay is a little bit more of a philosophy-type sociologist, but he still does do sociology. He helped me learn how to be a little less closed-minded with my sociology and be a little bit more open to understanding the world differently and asking questions.

Part of what he focuses on is romantic or just interpersonal relationships. He taught us about kindness. Despite people spreading hate and making hateful comments, we should try and find a way to be kind to each other.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you offer somebody considering applying for college?

A: My best piece of advice would be to tour the ASU campuses. You need to know whether you will enjoy being on that campus or not, because that can make or break your experience. I think if I had spent my time at Tempe instead of the West Valley campus, my experience would have been different.

If you tour the Tempe campus and you realize that it's too much for you and too loud, you might want to consider the West Valley campus. Maybe you prefer something quieter with more nature. It’s an important choice because you're going to spend four, or maybe more, years here. 

Q: What would you say to somebody considering your major? What would make a good candidate?

A: For someone considering sociology, I would say be prepared to read and write. There is a lot of writing and reading. But also keep an open mind because depending on the professor that you have, they may have you read things that you were unprepared for, and that might change your perspective, and be open to that. Be open to asking questions. Be open to asking questions about yourself. You may find things that change your perspective or solidify your perspective on something.

Writing is one of the main components of my major, and so you have to be willing to write in a way that maybe you haven't written before when that requires you to write from a more holistic perspective about people, rather than just a perspective about one person or one individual. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to take a gap year and then apply for grad school. I want to earn a sociology PhD. So, I am planning to apply for PhD programs during that gap year. I am also looking into internships or volunteer opportunities that are more in line with what I want to do. Within my sociology program, I want to look at race and ethnicity and how that ties to identity as well as social movements.

Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years or more? How do you feel that New College has helped you get there?

A: I see myself teaching as a professor at a university. I want to be able to educate students about the world around them and encourage change if they are experiencing discontent with the world around them. I want to be able to go to other places and teach more people about the world around them and how to change things should they feel that things need to be changed. I think that New College has helped me discover more about what I wanted, allowing me to look at a more interdisciplinary study of my field.

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