We Remember: Interview with Tamara Nissanka

  • Name: Tamara Nissanka
  • Started University in: September, 2007
  • Graduated in: May, 2011
  • Present Sphere of Employment: Qualitative Market Researcher

 

What was life at university like in general?

It was, overall, time well spent! I’d heard quite a lot about the SL universities of course, especially the University of Colombo, and had read about it frequently, but the experience of actually attending university as an undergraduate was very different, and a lot more enjoyable than reading about it in print. One of the best things about university was that you come into contact with students from diverse parts of Sri Lanka and of different ethnicities and cultural orientations; being interested in people from an early age, this proved to be a satisfying encounter for me.

In my first year, I chose to pursue International Relations, English and Sociology, later I opted to specialize in Sociology. On the whole, I felt that I grew up, literally and figuratively, at university; I feel that I developed a more mature outlook about life.

What made you opt for Sociology as your specialization?

From an early age, people and the many facets of social interactions fascinated me. I loved the social-studies unit on the school syllabi, and my passion about unraveling the nature of the society was with me throughout. Once I was done with my G.C.E. A/L exams, I took to roaming online searching for sociology related articles, to orient myself with the discipline. As yet, I didn’t have a clear understanding of what the discipline constituted per se, but I was still interested in the content of the subject. I also read about the undergraduate programmes offered by the UOC department of sociology and was attracted. In a way, then, I had my heart set out on specializing in sociology, if I ever got the opportunity. From a more practical standpoint, I also searched for what career paths would open up for me, were I to major in Sociology, and I satisfied myself on that head as well. Looking back, I’d say that the decision to specialize in sociology was both sentimental and practical at the same time.  

Have your experiences with the Department of Sociology affected your career choices?

Immediately after graduating, I joined the Ceylon National Chamber of Industries – the CNCI – for a project of comparatively short duration. Later, I found work at a market research company which specializes in qualitative research; I’m completing a year with them coming July. Yes, my degree in sociology, along with the multitude of experiences gained as sociology undergraduate was a definite asset. For instance, I had good grounding in empirical research – both quantitative and qualitative although I wasn’t too keen about overwhelming myself with numbers! – which proved to be invaluable since I had to work in research; I was expected to engage in focus group discussions with consumers and was required to condense and analyze their responses in order to develop better market strategies. I also had plenty of hands on experience concerning the same at university, what with the research I had to undertake to complete my dissertation and the superior foundation I obtained through field research training programmes. Also the limited number of psychology based courses I took helped me gain insight into the aspect of consumer psychology.

You were the first ever editor for the editorial branch of the resurrected UCSSA. Tell us a little about the intended breadth and depth of this division and the founding of ‘socioscope’.

Technically the idea for socioscope – a blog to harness the sociology related contributions of the academic staff and students at the university – came before the idea to resurrect the UCSSA. Our main purpose was to give the sociology department an online presence and after the UCSSA was resurrected we brought socioscope to life under the editorial branch. Fellow undergraduates within and without the department were enthusiastic contributors, and so were the academic staff. I also received help with the IT aspects of it and the technical elements required for the blog to function smoothly. The socioscope was actually part of a larger arrangement; we expected to couple it with a printed version, a magazine to be published quarterly or annually. We hope that the future generations of the UCSSA would one day make our dream a reality. 

Socioscope is not delimited to articles of purely sociological orientation. For instance, the blog recently featured several creative pieces of work by novel contributors. What are your opinions on this subject?

Interesting question. We do publish articles with an academic orientation of course – it is meant to be a university centered blog after all! – but we discourage copious quantities of technical jargon in the work we publish. The whole idea of the blog is to demystify the discipline of sociology and make it accessible to the lay person without risking oversimplification. A helpful analogy would be to compare the blog with our intended counterpart, a magazine. If you observe carefully, you’ll see that the archives and categories are organized so as to complement the layout of a magazine. A magazine should harvest creativity and to this end poetry, photographic essays and such like becomes invaluable. We want the tenuous students about to start life as an undergraduate help decide if sociology is right for them. In SL at least, they are not likely to have encountered sociology as a separate discipline before university entrance and so are unlikely to be familiar with the intricate workings of the subject. This being the case, their job would certainly be thankless were they forced to sift through mounds of technicalities in sociology, no matter what brilliant intellect they might convey to the specialist!              

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