Emily O’Connor

What do you do professionally?

Emily is the Executive Director at Lydia Place, a Bellingham non-profit that helps homeless individuals transition to permanent housing through advocacy and education.  The organization’s goal is to educate the public on the faces and causes of homelessness, and work with local services providers to eradicate persistent homelessness in our community.  She describes her role as “a little bit of everything,” including budgeting, grant writing, advocacy, staff supervision, and reporting to the Board of Directors. 


How did your Sociology degree help prepare you for your work?

“I was surprised how well prepared I was, particularly when I started my graduate training in Social Work at the University of Washington.  I was nervous entering a top-ranked program, but quickly realized that my WWU education overlapped in so many ways with the material presented in graduate school.  Western was a great foundation.”


Did you have a favorite class in the Sociology Department?

“I loved all of my courses, but my favorite was Gender and Society with Dr. Jen Lois.  This was my first Sociology class, and I quickly abandoned thoughts about a Psychology degree.  I thought it was so fascinating in every way, and really validated the lens through which I already saw the world.  Plus, how cool is it to study Seinfeld in college!”


What are your favorite ways to spend time when you are not working?

“Besides spending time with my two cute kids, I enjoy reading, particularly historical fiction or a good mystery.  I also enjoy anything on the water like swimming, boating, and kayaking.”


What career advice would you offer for current Sociology majors?

“Be sure to volunteer when possible.  I volunteered with Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services while at Western, and the experience was invaluable.  In my current position I do a lot of hiring, and most of our best employees started with volunteer experience.  I think internships and volunteering are great ways to get your foot in the door.” ​