Graduate student wants to study race relations, inequality

In addition to being a graduate student, Lasheena Soriano works as an administrative support associate in the Department of Sociology. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

The following story was originally published by ECU News Services in 2021.

Lasheena Soriano wants to make the world a more equitable place. That’s why she’s at East Carolina University pursuing a master’s degree in sociology.

“The very definition of sociology is intriguing to me,” Soriano said. “We study the interaction of people in groups, organizations, societies and the causes and consequences of human behavior.”   

Soriano’s focus is applied social research and her interests are race relations, equity and inequality. She plans to conduct research highlighting social and economic issues that disproportionately affect underserved communities and hopes to facilitate future policy change. She grew up in Long Island, New York, and has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Malloy College in Rockville Centre, New York.

In addition to her studies, Soriano also works as an administrative support associate in the Department of Sociology.  When she and her family arrived in Greenville, she had a hard time finding a job. “I put my name in the temp pool, and the coordinator contacted me about this position,” Soriano said. “She thought I would like to work in the department because of my sociology background. She was correct.”   

Kristen Myers, professor and chair of the department, has worked with Soriano since 2019 as a staff member and now as a student.

“Although I have only known her for a short time, I have gotten to know her as intellectually curious, well-trained, extremely organized and self-motivated, and a joy to interact with,” Myers said. “She is a critical thinker and takes a thoughtful, analytic approach to every issue and task.”

Soriano balances work, school and family. She and her husband have three children.

Myers said Soriano has a bright future as a sociology researcher, not only because of her intellect, communication skills and work ethic, but also because of her ability to adapt.

“One thing I don’t often get to see in students in a typical semester is their ability to pivot when times get tough and to find the strength to be resilient when faced with external and internal challenges,” Myers said. “The restrictions related to the COVID-19 global health crisis have placed everyone in unprecedented situations where they have to manage more than ever. Lasheena’s ability to stay focused while also taking time to meet her own needs speaks to her maturity and her underlying skillset.”

Soriano and her husband have three children, ages 14, 9 and 2. They’re all Pirate fans and look forward to getting back in the stands to cheer the teams.

“Yes, and yes! How could anyone live in Greenville and not be a Pirate fan?” she said. “The Pirate energy is infectious.”

Last fall, Soriano received the Wilson-Reiser Graduate Fellowship, awarded to a sociology student committed to working in the Community Research Lab.

“As a non-traditional student who is married with children and working part time, continuing my studies would have been nearly impossible without the Wilson-Reiser Scholarship,” Soriano said at the time. “I am truly grateful for the generosity that was awarded to me. I would like to say thank you on behalf of my family and the community I will serve.”

She also plans to get involved with campus or service organizations. “I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot,” she said. “For most of my undergrad studies I was a mom, working and attending school both full time, and I didn’t want to start anything I couldn’t fully commit to. What I didn’t realize then is that organizations are flexible with students, and now that I have a better understanding of that, I want to get involved.