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Viking Spotlight: Rebekah Lapwood ‘17, Sociology

Rebekah Lapwood ‘17
Major: BA, sociology
Minors: Psychology and educational studies minors

What is your current role and what are you responsible for day-to-day?

I am currently a program and policy analyst for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. My day-to-day responsibilities include conducting a wide range of program evaluation and data analysis through surveys and key performance indicators, creating comprehensive reports with appropriate data visualizations and process improvement recommendations, and assisting clients with enrolling in programs and benefits.

Did you always want to study sociology or was there some sort of "ah-ha" moment that put you on this path?

Originally, I enrolled at Salem State as an education major. Salem State requires all education majors to double major, and after taking the introduction to sociology course, I picked sociology as my second major. As time went on, I noticed I was significantly more interested in my sociology courses than my education courses, so during my sophomore year, I made education my minor and decided to really focus on the sociology curriculum.

During my junior year, I took the medical sociology course with Professor Sara Moore and I was so fascinated by all the material. Specifically, I was intrigued by how policies in the health field came about and the outcomes of those policies. That is when I really started to think about getting a master’s in public health or public policy.

Did you pursue a graduate degree after graduating from Salem State?

After graduating from Salem State in 2017, I went on to earn my master’s degree in public policy and administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Because of the rigorous curriculum in Salem State’s sociology program, I felt strongly prepared for my graduate coursework. The statistics and research methods courses I took while completing my undergraduate degree provided a sturdy foundation for me to expand on those topics in graduate school.

What's one of the most exciting professional opportunities you've had since graduating?

My current position as a program and policy analyst has been the most exciting because I get to apply what I learned at Salem State every day. I also wanted to work in the health care field, and that is where I am.

Was there a particular faculty member or class that had a lasting impact on you?

Professor Pamela Leong will forever have a lasting impact on me. She was my advisor and professor, but she was and continues to be a major mentor to me. She pushed me to do my best and challenged me to think about things differently — because of this, I signed up for every course she offered.

In what ways did the faculty and curriculum help you get to where you are today?

I have been able to apply the skills and knowledge I gained as a student to my work. In turn, my work has allowed me to utilize and gain experience applying those tools. Certain courses in the curriculum were difficult and challenged me to question my own views and assumptions. However, I am thankful for those courses because it is important to challenge your own views and I learned so much from those lessons. 

Was there a specific out-of-classroom learning experience that was especially significant to you?

As a student, I had the amazing opportunity to serve on the university’s academic policy committee, which gave me the opportunity to work with faculty from a variety of academic departments. I got to witness first-hand how policies are shaped by the faculty’s point of view, and I was able to voice my input on how those policies would impact students.

Looking back on your experience, what advice do you have for prospective sociology students?

I would recommend taking as many, if not all, the sociology electives offered. Sociology is such a robust subject, and each elective allows you to dive deeper into all these different topics to discover what you really enjoy.

What was the best part of your Salem State experience?

The best part of Salem State for me was building connections with faculty and other students. I was able to gain a network of individuals that I will continue to connect with probably for the rest of my life.

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