Campus & community, Events at Berkeley

Berkeley Talks: Sociology Ph.D. graduates on the power of family and deep inquiry

"One way that we might apply our sociological training is to ask ourselves: What needs to be spoken?" said Kristen Nelson, who gave the graduate student address with Mario Castillo

black and white photo of two students wearing caps and gowns
Kristen Nelson and Mario Castillo delivered the spring 2023 graduate speech at the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology's commencement ceremony on May 19. (Photo courtesy of Kristen Nelson)

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black and white photo of two students wearing caps and gowns

Kristen Nelson (left) and Mario Castillo gave the graduate student address at the Department of Sociology’s spring 2023 commencement ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Kristen Nelson)

In Berkeley Talks episode #169, two Ph.D. graduates in sociology — Kristen Nelson and Mario Castillo — deliver the graduate student address at the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology’s spring 2023 commencement ceremony.

“Like many of you, I was raised by a single mother,” said Castillo at the May 19 event. “Her name is Mariana Leticia Castillo, and she was 17 when I was born. Now, I have tried to imagine what a 16-year-old mother-to-be must have felt as she prepared to bring a new life into this world, how she had hope for my wellness, happiness and success, coupled with an overwhelming sense of worry, anxiety and fear about the uncertain journey ahead.

“My mother’s story, as a young working-class woman of color, finding her way as a single parent, combined with my own unique experiences as a queer person of color, propelled me towards deeper inquiry, self-discovery, and ultimately, the fascinating field of sociology.”

For Nelson, growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the most segregated metro area in the U.S., opened her eyes to the stark inequality in the country and caused her to ask, “Why is it like this?”

“When issues … go unspoken, that is a politics of silence that perpetuates exclusion,” Nelson said. “This motivates me to practice a politics of articulation, where we choose to say out loud what has been overlooked, because we cannot change what we cover with silence. So, fellow graduates, as we step into the next chapter, one way that we might apply our sociological training is to ask ourselves: What needs to be spoken?”


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