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Our Alumni

Study of Culture & Society

Laura Gann


Nathan Baggett

Shelby Bell


Erica Austin

Claire Celsi

Danielle Oswald-Thole

5/18/16‌Laura Gann, Study of Culture & Society '16

As a Sociology and Psychology double major with a concentration in Global and Comparative Public Health at Drake, Laura reports that she had many opportunities and resources to learn and discover her passions. Her interest is in the mind and health began with involvement on the Cross Country and Track & Field Teams at Drake.

She writes, "The integrated nature of my majors along with the help of many of my professors encouraged me to pursue further study in the related field of Public Health." Laura interned with The World Food Prize, preparing for the week-long Borlaug Dialogue on issues related to hunger.

She entered New York University in Fall 2016 to pursue a Master in Public Health in food studies, where she will use the knowledge gained from experience at Drake to continue to work towards improving both the quality of and access to healthy foods.


Nathan Baggett, Rhetoric and Communication Studies '12

I graduated from Drake University in May 2012 with a BA in Rhetoric and Communication Studies and Politics. While at Drake I also pursued a concentration in Global and Comparative Public Health. I am currently a medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Studying rhetoric helped me to begin thinking critically about medical discourses and the effects of those discourses on the individuals within our healthcare system. While a degree in rhetoric may not be the most common pathway to medical school, I appreciate the way that rhetoric shapes my understandings and experiences as a medical student and in daily life.

Shelby Bell, Rhetoric '10

As a first-year student at Drake I found the rhetoric program by accident, but it is an accident that has proved fortuitous. Studying rhetoric helped me answer questions I found perplexing, and helped me to refine my critical thinking skills. Since graduating in 2010, rhetoric has continued to be central to my everyday life.

In the fall of 2010, after graduating from Drake, I began a Master's program in rhetoric at the University of Minnesota. In 2012 I completed the Master's program and I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in rhetoric at the University of Minnesota. My experience as an undergraduate rhetoric major at Drake has been very useful to me in my pursuit of graduate degrees in rhetoric. 

At Drake I had read many of the key texts in the field and been exposed to lynchpin figures for rhetorical theory. This knowledge proved invaluable to me. The courses I took at Drake taught me how to see the world’s plethora of rhetorical discourse, and taught me to critically examine the world of rhetoric, often in ways that I did not imagine before learning about rhetorical theory, practice, and criticism. Since graduating I've decided to spend my career doing studying the world of rhetoric and learning from it. 

Erica Austin, Sociology '08

After graduating from Drake University I was offered a job as a parent educator in the Public School System in Springfield, IL. I then became a Practitioner for the Illinois State Board of Education. In this role, I traveled around to various conferences and worked with schools to increase parent engagement and find workable solutions to get parents more involved in their child’s education. I earned my Masters in Human Services with a special emphasis in Child and Family Services.

Immediately after graduating with my Masters I obtained employment with the University of Illinois Extension 4-H. This is a dream career because it allows me to work with a population dear to my heart: at-risk youth. I am responsible for leading positive youth development initiatives for after-school programs, community groups, 4-H community clubs and other youth-serving organizations - with special emphasis on youth in our urban area. My areas of expertise include youth/adult partnerships, positive youth development principles, youth leadership, volunteer development, and work with adolescents.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This is one of the two quotes that has stayed with me since being a student at Drake University and it has a lot to do with my sociology major. It has taught me to understand and be knowledgeable the social structures that shape race, ethnicity, class gender, and sexuality. Understanding differences has helped me to better identify with the youth whom I serve. I believe my major in sociology as well as my Professors have helped prepare for my career because I have a better understanding of human behavior.

Danielle Oswald-Thole, Sociology '07

When I transferred to Drake in 2005 I chose Sociology as a major because I was interested in social justice issues and wanted to eventually wanted to find a career that worked towards improving the lives of others.  After graduating with a degree in Sociology and English in 2007, I went on to complete my Master of Social Work in 2011, from the University of Iowa.  I decided early on in my MSW program that instead of pursuing a clinical or direct-service social work career, I was interested in policy level solutions that addressed systemic inequities that exist and often impact the opportunities people have access to. 

This led to an internship at the Child and Family Policy Center which is where I now work full-time as a Policy Advocate (registered lobbyist) and Community Outreach Coordinator.  The Child and Family Policy Center is a bi-partisan research and advocacy organization.  We advocate for state and community level policies and investments that improve the well-being of Iowa kids and families in the areas of child health, child care, child safety, education, family economic success, and fair and equitable tax policy.  I am responsible for working to increase awareness of issues affecting Iowa children through electoral education and advocacy and presenting our policy agenda to community groups, individuals, the press, and state legislators. 

My degree in Sociology from Drake helped prepare me for my current career because it taught me the importance of examining how social policies and systems have created, and perpetuate, many of the inequalities that exist in our society today.

I am also a proud alumna of the Drake Women’s Soccer team – Go Bulldogs!

Claire Celsi, Sociology '01Apr2016

A Des Moines native, she is a 2016 candidate for the Iowa Legislature and founder of her own PR firm, The Public Relations Project. Claire is a former Drake adjunct and taught PR Writing, Internet Marketing Social Media courses for Drake’s School of Journalism, CBPA and in the Business School. She works across many industries, including agriculture, digital marketing, economic development and public policy. She serves on several nonprofit boards relating to poverty alleviation, economic empowerment and the environment.

Claire enjoys giving back to Drake - giving guest lectures and participating in student panels and networking events several times a year. She writes, "I've used my sociology degree every day since graduating from Drake. In addition to teaching critical thinking skills, sociology taught me how to critically analyze research, "read" situations and determine underlying social circumstances. It's coming in very handy during my political campaign - social issues come up a lot and my educational background helps me to sort out fact from fiction. Thank you, Drake!"

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