Education a passion for sociology instructor

Mariana Veloso, Guest Writer from "Writing for Media' course

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Imagine taking 13 courses during a single semester at one of the top university’s in the country—a university that requires you to take a test and be in the top one percent out of about 1.5 million other students just to be accepted. Well, at one time, this was what Sebahattin Ziyanak, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, was accomplishing during his undergraduate studies.

Ziyanak attended Mimar Sinan University, one of the top universities in his home country of Turkey. While there he studied psychology, sociology, logic, and philosophy, but soon realized that his passion was for sociology. “I love to observe. I love understanding people, looks like I am reading their mind,” Ziyanak said. “I like predicting what’s going to happen in the future, what’s going to happen in the societies. Making those assumptions and seeing your assumptions being through in the future, this is really a kind of treasure.”

And, after a while, he learned he had a knack for it. “Seeing the future, what’s going to happen as a country, as a territory, you need to have a specific unique ability to understand [this],” Ziyanak said. “So, that’s what I have received, this consciousness through the sociology courses, and I was again the top of my courses all the time and I loved it. I had been doing a lot of readings regarding sociology and I said this is me, that is where I belong.”

To further pursue his education he decided to become a foreign exchange student and come to America for his master’s degree, at the University of Houston, and then eventually his doctorate, at the University of North Texas.

As you may assume, this process must have been expensive. But, through the help of his close family, Ziyanak paid his way through school. He managed to get scholarships for his undergraduate degree and then worked to pay for his master and doctorate degrees. In this, he worked for an international selling company and even created his own business in New Jersey and Manhattan, all of which produced “really good pay.”

“Everything that we earned, it went to education,” Ziyanak said. “It worked for me. Also, I was working, I was getting really good pay, then I spent everything for the Ph.D.”

All of this because his priority goal is to be a sociologist.

“Before I came to the UTPB, I was making more than how much they pay me right now,” Ziyanak said. “The only reason I came was (for) my passion.”

In his pursuit of his passion, Ziyanak faced tough times when moving to the United States. Noting that the cultures are very different, Ziyanak says he received a “huge amount” of culture shock.

“The neighborhood I came from, I knew everybody and everybody knows me too,” Ziyanak said. “I know their parents and their parent’s parent, and everybody was keeping in touch. And here, you feel that you have been the stranger in the city and that actually forced me to feel (like) I am a stranger and I said it to myself.”

Despite the challenges, Ziyanak powered through and he says that now it is important that his family and he let people know more about who they are, their Muslim religion, and their Turkish culture.

“I think this is kind of our job, we need to tell people who we are,” Ziyanak said. “We need to invite people and we need to tell them: ‘Hey, we are no different, we are like you,’ so we have to hang out with the people so they (can) understand who we are exactly.”

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Education a passion for sociology instructor