Meet Elizabeth Mugo ’19 Mugo says that, above all, W&L taught her to "always be curious."
By W&L News Office
February 2, 2023
Major: Sociology and Anthropology
Current Employer: Mathematica
What was your major at W&L, and how does it apply to your career now?
I majored in Sociology and Anthropology and found my current job through a fellow SOAN alumna, Rebecca Dunn. Currently, I work as a research associate at Mathematica, and I would say that I lot of my skills from SOAN apply to what I do now. I took a course with Professor Goluboff on qualitative methods, which applies to the interviews and qualitative analysis I do on a variety of projects. I also took a course with Professor Jasiewicz on survey methodology in Lexington, and that was one of the main topics I always mentioned during job interviews, since it’s such a unique experience to have. Currently, I’m working on a review of literature using Bayesian analysis, and one of my last courses was Bayesian methods with Professor Eastwood.
What was your first job after graduation?
My first job after graduation was actually a brief stint at a Chipotle in my hometown while I was waiting for research clearance for my Fulbright. My clearance never came through, so I reapplied for a research associate position at Mathematica, where I currently work.
How did W&L prepare you for your career?
Through the experiences I had at W&L — working on the Commission on Institutional History, serving as Executive Committee (EC) Vice President and President, being a Bonner Scholar — I feel like I started my job with a lot of soft skills on presenting myself, learning to communicate with different groups, and the importance of cultural competence and stakeholder engagement. Above all, W&L prepared me to always be curious. I work on a variety of projects focused on child welfare, family engagement and economic mobility, and I’m grateful to not feel pigeonholed into one discipline or area of research. I think that started with my education at W&L and being able to take different courses.
What are some of your major or memorable career/W&L milestones?
I think my biggest W&L milestone was speaking at graduation. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved the idea of being a graduation speaker, so having the opportunity to deliver the 2019 undergraduate commencement speech was a big deal for me.
Who or what has most inspired you along the way? (Staff, faculty, classmates, internships, alumni, etc.)
I don’t think I can name just one person for this. I’m beyond thankful and so inspired by my professors, staff, classmates, friends and fellow EC members. I struggled a lot with my mental health in my final term at W&L, and I couldn’t have made it to graduation without the support of so many amazing people who continue to lift me up and believe in me. I think most of these folks know who they are, and I’m eternally grateful for them.
What do you miss most about your time at W&L?
I miss living alongside my friends. Some of my friends are in grad school/med school or working and live much further away than a brief walk down the hall or to Third Year. If I could go back to my time at W&L, I would soak up all of our time together.
What was the one class you most enjoyed outside of your major, and why?
I took African American History to the 1800s with Professor DeLaney, and it was an incredible course. Professor DeLaney had a great knack for mixing in books like “Blood Brothers” by Johnny Smith and Randy Roberts that felt modern but still provided a rich history of the time period that spanned Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali’s friendship. This was the only course that I took with Professor DeLaney, and he would never fail to call me out on it when I ran into him, but I thoroughly enjoyed the class and the opportunity to learn from him.
What is the one class or professor you wish you could return to campus and take a class with now?
Oof, this is a tough one. I took a lot of courses in the SOAN Department, Shepherd Department and Africana Studies Department while I was at W&L. I would love the chance to take an Econ class to learn Stata, a class in the Psychology Department with Professor Woodzicka or Professor Murdoch, or continue my Spanish courses with Professor Michaelson or Professor Kutner.
What is one thing on your W&L bucket list that you would still like to accomplish?
I’ve still never been on a hike in Lexington. I was always intimidated by so many people’s ability to do big hikes and outdoorsy things. Next time I’m in Lexington and the weather is good, I’ll definitely add a sunrise hike to my list.
What advice would you give to next year’s graduating class?
One of my favorite quotes is by the author Mary H.K. Choi in an interview on the podcast “Call Your Girlfriend.” She says, “Either you’re right on time because the universe is a benevolent conspiracy to see you do well and you’re ultimately taken care of or you’re just running around to things that you don’t even know if you had any agency in decided that you were late for.”
I’ve thought about this quote a lot when I feel like I’m not where I want to be in my life or where I imagined I would be at 25, and it always helps me remember that a lot of the pressure I feel to be at a certain level is outward and not something I chose for myself. A lot of adulthood has been making my own path and learning to trust my instincts, like choosing to work before graduate school. It’s scary and not as straight-forward as going through school, but you’ve got to learn to lean into what makes you happy and set up boundaries around what doesn’t.
Tell us a favorite W&L memory in five sentences or less.
The morning after Fancy Dress, my friends and I were a little worse for wear. When we woke up, we piled into one bed and laid there as we made breakfast plans, and we all managed to get out of bed and head to Bistro for brunch. It felt like a scene from a fun comedy about friendship.
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