Alumni Spotlight

alumni spotlight

As a sociology major you will study social life, social change, diverse communities, and pressing issues impacting society today. Our graduates go onto careers in social work, human resources, research and data analysis, educational counseling, nonprofit and public sector management, diversity training, policy analysis, and community organizing. Learn more about our academic programs.(link)

Brandi Avila - M.A. Sociology, 2015 I B.A. Sociology & Pan African Studies, 2012


Q1: What have you been doing since graduating from CSUN?

A1: “As I completed my degrees at CSUN, I was committed wholeheartedly to pursuing a tenure-track faculty position. I loved the classroom and desired deeply to be a professor. I still have a love for the classroom and look forward to the opportunity to step back into that realm. However, one of my first jobs in the community college was an academic success coach/advisor position. This opportunity introduced me to student services. I found a love for coordinating, advising, and supporting students outside of the classroom to help them realize their goals. My time as a Specialist in a Transfer Center and Culture Center married my passions. I had an opportunity to support diversity programming and assist community college stage students in transferring to four-year universities to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Still, I was focused on the faculty route and guest lectured in ethnic studies from time to time. But, an internal opportunity to serve as a Director for the Umoja Program, a Black-centered academic program that focuses on the whole student, came about I couldn’t pass it up.

However, I learned that I enjoyed the impact I could make as an administrator. My voice and experience as a millennial, Black woman, mother, and first-generation college graduate is underrepresented in the spaces where crucial decisions impacting students are being made. This realization encouraged me to stay on the path in administration. I felt grounded and passionate about helping campuses to adopt an equity and anti-racist lens and using this lens to reimagine and implement our policies, practices, and procedures. I also learned that I could still lean into my passions for teaching along the way in part-time positions, conferences, and leading professional development. I recently took a position as the Dean of Student Development and Wellness at Moreno Valley College, where I ensure the health and wellness of MVC’s student population. This position facilitates access to basic needs, the Disability Support Services Program, the Early Childhood Education Center, GAIN/CalWORKs program, Student Health Services, psychological services, student life (ASMVC and Student Activities), civic engagement, and ensures students can have their concerns addressed through the student conduct and grievance process.”

Q2: How did CSUN help prepare you for your current position/career? Are there any specific experiences, classes, faculty, events, etc., in particular, that stand out to you?


  • “CSUN was a rich place for me to learn and develop. As an undergraduate student, my Pan African Studies professors and BSU family helped me grow, gave me space to develop my identity, and empowered me to follow my dreams. They certainly ensured I felt a sense of belonging and power.


  • From my undergraduate and graduate experiences, stand out sociology faculty include Dr. Kouri, Dr. Boyns, Dr. Lori Campbell, and my dear Dr. Amy Dennissen, who has since transitioned. Because of these folks, I felt supported and affirmed in my interests and abilities to succeed as a social scientist and scholar.


  • During my time at CSUN I had many transformative classes; however, two that helped me choose my career was the internship practicum as an undergraduate and the Teaching Practicum as a graduate student. These opportunities helped me identify what I wanted from a career and, maybe most importantly, what I did not want in my professional experience. I was able to apply my learning and theories to real-world situations. It helped me expand my professional network and have a starting point for my CV and resume. In my Teaching Practicum with Dr. Boyns, I confirmed my passion for community college. I also began to explore the various career tracks at that level. I would be remiss if I didn’t share how pivotal Dr. Campbell’s graduate Sociology of Education course was for me. I was interested in race and ethnic diversity as my specialization. But, it was not offered as an option when I was a graduate student. Dr. Campbell helped me realize that I could explore race and ethnic diversity within educational institutions. That advisement and her course were absolutely life changing! I’ve spent most of my career addressing how we can close the equity, access, and success gaps for our minoritized student communities in higher education. I’ve centered my practices in equity, anti-racism, and addressing structural inequities that I had an opportunity to explore in that course.


  • As a graduate student, I also had an opportunity to serve as a Graduate Assistant for Dr. Campbell’s sociology of education, social statistics, and research methods courses. This opportunity also allowed me to learn and refine professional skills and build a relationship with my faculty supervisor. Before I took this job, I was terrified of stats and leading any lectures on it. Dr. Campbell challenged me when she allowed me to teach a few sessions and run the statistics lab. I am proud to say that my confidence grew exponentially in statistics. It is undoubtedly a skill I continue to use in my career.”

Q3: What advice would you give to current CSUN sociology students?

A3: “My first piece of advice will center on educational experience. First, don’t let anyone make you feel that their opinion of you or your work is the e nd-all, be-all. You deserve to be at CSUN; you are capable of realizing all the things you are working toward; you belong! I experienced imposter syndrome and felt unsupported at times. Still, I encourage you to find your community, engage with the faculty who affirm you, and take them up on opportunities to apply your knowledge and network with others in the field.

For your career, I encourage you to get out there! Look for opportunities to intern or volunteer in the field. Email folks in positions you are interested in for short informational interviews. I’ve found that most folks love to talk about their jobs and themselves! Build relationships with faculty and peers with shared interests as you pursue your education. Higher education offers many career tracks, and your scope varies depending on what level you choose (CSU, UC, community college, private or out-of-state). Take this opportunity to explore and connect. I promise you it will go a long way!.”