Interview with Anna Orrnert – Course Leader for BA (Hons) Sociology
Newman University is excited to launch BA (Hons) Sociology this September. We caught up with programme leader Anna Orrnert to find out more about the course.
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey before joining Newman University?
Before joining Newman, I worked as a researcher in a range of settings including the corporate world, charities and at other universities. I did research for international development Thinktanks, supporting governmental development agencies in their work to reduce poverty and inequality in societies across the world. This included research on youth citizen engagement initiatives to feed into the Government of Papua New Guinea’s National Youth Strategy, and research on refugee wellbeing interventions to inform the development of a refugee support programme by the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I also travelled to Liberia in West Africa to help set up a project to support the integration of former child soldiers into civilian communities after the end of the civil war.
More recently, I co-founded a small community interest company called Future Seed. We received a large National Heritage Lottery Fund grant for a project called ‘The world in one place – Learning together in a multicultural city’ about primary school life and education in Birmingham between the beginning of the 1960s and the end of the 1980s. This explored how neighbourhoods across Birmingham changed and became more diverse after the arrival of Commonwealth citizens who were invited to help rebuild Britain after World War II. During this time, society also evolved rapidly due to technological advances and new ideas around education emerged. Primary schools in Birmingham were at the forefront of making sense of all these changes. We gathered the stories of former pupils and teachers as well as old photographs and objects, in order to understand what was happening in classrooms and schools, and the wider city, during those years.
What are your particular areas of interest within the field of Sociology?
My doctoral research was on young women’s transitions to adulthood in the post-industrial city of Birmingham, and how the intersection of gender, social class and race shaped their lived experiences. As a part of this, I spent nearly two years doing research at a local youth centre as well as interviewing young women there about their experiences of education, employment, moving in and out of the parental home, embarking on romantic relationships, and – for some – starting to form their own families. I was interested in how their trajectories were shaped both by both ‘choice’ and structural inequalities, as well as the strategies that they adopted as a result.
I am currently developing a second phase of this study which will pick up where the original research left off nearly 10 years ago and explore where the same young women are today and in the context of contemporary societal issues – including technology and social media, politics, austerity and the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis. I am keenly interested in power, inequality, intersectionality and social justice.
Can you tell us more about the new Sociology course at Newman?
We are very excited to be launching the new Sociology course at Newman! On this course, students will learn how to make sense of the world around them and their own place within this. The course explores how modern society was shaped by things like industrialisation, colonialism and decolonisation, globalisation and the mass media as well as how sociological thinking has evolved to help us understand social change and contemporary society. Students will think about how power shapes individual lives and social relationships and examine how sociology can help us tackle the global challenges which humanity faces, including climate change and war. The course also has a very practical focus. Students will have the chance to develop research skills and apply them to real world problems. They will complete a work placement, giving them valuable employment experience. Students will take their learning out into different locations across Birmingham and apply it. And they will have the opportunity to engage with local community actors who might not traditionally be thought of as sociologists but who are ‘doing sociology’ around the city.
What is your main piece of advice for anyone who is interested in studying a degree in Sociology?
Although the career path for sociology graduates may not be as clear cut as it is for graduates with degrees in nursing, counselling, social work or youth work, there are many benefits to studying sociology. Sociology involves learning transferrable skills –including research and analytical thinking – which are valuable in a range of different jobs. So, studying sociology can prepare you for many career options! Sociology involves understanding diverse viewpoints – which is a crucial skill for effective problem solving. Moreover, because they are often interested in how to tackle the challenges facing members of society, sociology graduates can make positive changes in their communities and places of work.
Sociology graduates are valued by employers for their critical thinking skills and their knowledge of how the world works. In addition to more traditional employment in teaching and public welfare, sociology graduates can now be found in a range of jobs across diverse sectors. These include research, journalism, human resource management, marketing and advertising, ICT development, business and finance, health promotion and public health, ecology and environmental activism and international development. If you are passionate about understanding how society works as well as applying this learning in a real-life context, then studying sociology at Newman may be for you! Please get in touch to learn more or arrange to visit us – we would love to meet you!