Like so many other Hamilton students who take advantage of the academic freedom the open curriculum offers, recent graduate David Schwartz ’13 sort of accidentally fell into his major and academic passion: sociology.
Originally a government major, Schwartz unintentionally adopted sociology as his second major after taking an introductory class taught by former Hamilton professor George Hobor. Now, four years after this class and several experiences later, Schwartz has decided to continue his education and enroll in a doctoral program in sociology at Princeton this fall. According to Schwartz, “sociology intro classes can have a sort of eye-opening effect (especially with regard to inequality) for students, and I was no exception.”
During the summer before his junior year, Schwartz was offered a unique opportunity to explore his interest in sociology when he was asked by Professor Hobor to work alongside classmates Amy Dow ’14 and Elly Field ’13 on a refugee integration project in the local Utica area. Working with translators to interview Somali and Burmese refugees, Schwartz’s role in the project consisted of learning more about the relocation histories of the refugees, as well as what kinds of support networks surrounded them both before and after their relocation.
After working at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Office of Survey Methods Research during that critical summer before senior year, it became even more apparent to Schwartz that a graduate degree in the social sciences was the next logical step in his career path. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics is more widely recognized as the publisher of unemployment statistics, it is their constant methodological improvement that takes place behind-the-scenes that excites Schwartz most about the field, and the impact it can have: “I realized that a graduate degree in the social sciences provides one with the specialized knowledge to improve lives in a variety of powerful (perhaps unseen) ways.”
At Princeton, Schwartz plans to study urban sociology with an emphasis on inequality and neighborhood effects, particularly within the context of the recent development of the Sun Belt and the lingering effects of foreclosure on suburban communities. He will also be studying the ways in which disadvantaged citizens interact with urban institutions, all while concurrently exploring new data gathering techniques for the social sciences, and developing skills in survey construction and analysis.
Looking back on his undergraduate experience at Hamilton, Schwartz feels extremely fortunate to have had supportive mentors in the Sociology department, including Professor Jennifer Irons and Professor Dan Chambliss, who were able to guide him in choosing his classes each semester, offering suggestions for graduate school, and everything in between.
Schwartz is also very grateful for the heavy emphasis on writing, critical thinking and student research within the Hamilton curriculum. When asked about the benefits of interdisciplinary work, he said that his work in one field made him “more capable in the other.” His enrollment in a sociology methods seminar, where he studied the politics of development in Utica with classmates Field and Marcus Sesin ’13, offered him his first opportunity to actively marry his majors. Schwartz finished off his Hamilton education with a sociology thesis about foreclosure in the Sun Belt, and a government thesis about the legislative behavior of self-financed House members.
Academics aside, he also credits his supportive group of friends for pushing him to work harder and be better. Schwartz graduated magna cum laude with honors in Sociology and Government, won the David J. Gray Prize in Sociology, and won first place in the Dean Alfange Essay Prize for his explanation of a neo-Republican approach to public campaign financing. In six years, Schwartz hopes to graduate from Princeton and ultimately pursue a career in policy research or academia.
David Schwartz is a graduate of Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Florida.