| Student Voice

Why I Chose to Study Computer Science and Sociology

by Davine Mungai

My name is Davine Mungai and I am a first-year student at Pacific Lutheran University majoring in Computer Science and Sociology. I was born in Kenya and moved to America with my family in 2018. If you told me then that I would be pursuing these two majors in college now—I would not have believed you.

Most of my schooling up to seventh grade was completed in Kenya. At that time, the country’s economy was in a very tough spot. There was an overall lack of jobs. Only a few specific jobs paid well; mainly engineers, doctors, pilots, professors, and architects. Parents and the education system pushed middle- and low-income students to get these jobs that offered a secure future.

With the limited options I was given, I decided to become a doctor. I grew up around adults who were service-minded people. My mother started a nonprofit organization, Africa Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, dedicated to spreading awareness about Parkison’s Disease and helping people who had the disease in Africa. I knew I wanted to help people too and make the money I would need to thrive in the economic crisis.

Davine volunteering with his family at an event hosted by Africa Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Davine Mungai)

But this all changed once I moved to America.

Moving to America meant I no longer needed to choose a career based on an economic crisis. I now had the freedom to choose from many careers. But I suddenly felt lost because I was not sure what I liked to do, what I was good at, and how I could translate that into a meaningful job.

One thing I knew I liked was my favorite eighth grade class, Microsoft Imaging, which taught students general computer skills and a little coding. While in that class, my teacher introduced me to computer science. He thought that I would be good at it and that I should consider pursuing a computer science career. I put his suggestion in the back of my mind, and it eventually influenced the classes and clubs I chose in high school.

In high school, I took multiple classes that were computer science related. I also joined clubs like Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA), and the Robotics Club. I talked with seniors and teachers who knew more about the subject. I wanted to make sure computer science was something I wanted to pursue, not because of the money or the stability, but because I liked it. When I became a teaching assistant for an Intro to Computer Science class in my sophomore year, I knew for sure I wanted to pursue computer science in college.

I still wondered what jobs I could do and how I was going to help people with computer science, but I knew I would eventually find the answer while in college. Since I had an idea of my career path, I decided to enroll in the Running Start program. And that is where I was introduced to sociology.

I was able to critically analyze the social problems I had faced as an African and an immigrant.

Intro to Sociology was one of my required Running Start classes. I had no idea what sociology was so, the first week, I treated it like any other class, showing up and completing the assignments. Then everything changed when the professor talked about sociological perspective and sociological imagination.

Sociological perspective is about looking at the world through a societal lens, and sociological imagination is a tool to understand how your story fits into the big story of society. I was able to critically analyze and explain the various social problems I had faced as an African and an immigrant, like poverty, discrimination, and racism. The ability to explain how and why made me even more interested in sociology and I ended up taking another class the next quarter that explored different social problems people faced around the world.

I spoke with my professor who advised me to major in sociology. What stood out to me was that she said sociology was mainly tied to helping people and society overall; something I knew I wanted to do in the future. Now I had hit an obstacle where I had to choose either computer science or sociology as a major. On the one hand, I had computer science which I liked and provided an established career path. On the other hand, I had sociology which I also liked and could give me a chance to help people.

Davine with his mother and sister on their two-year anniversary of coming to America. (Photo courtesy of Davine Mungai)

While I was trying to look for an answer, I joined a program called Our Future is Science (Ofis) in my junior year of high school. Ofis’s main goal is to educate students on the importance and connection of social justice with science. As a mentee in the program, I also received guidance and information on possible career paths I could take.

During the Ofis program, I explained my problem of having to choose between two majors and was introduced to the concept of double majoring. At first, I was not sure about double majoring because it didn’t seem like there was a career path that used both majors. My perspective changed, however, when I realized double majoring actually gave me the freedom to make something new out of the two subjects.

With the guidance of the people in Ofis and my college professors, I have realized that I want to use both the knowledge and perspectives from sociology and the technical skills from computer science together to help people. I am still learning more about what I will do with both majors, but I am no longer unsure about my future, and know I am one step closer to achieving my goals every day.

Davine Mungai is an Act Six Scholar in his first year at Pacific Lutheran University. With a major in Computer Science and Sociology, along with a minor in Data Science, Davine continues to navigate the intersection of technology and societal understanding on this unique academic journey. In his free time, he is either cooking, playing games, taking a nap, or hanging out with his family and friends.

Featured image: Davine with his mother, his uncle, and his aunt. (Photo courtesy of Davine Mungai)

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