Ambition Drives Student to Success

Cameron Jesse Cox in Shanghaii, China.
Monday, April 2, 2012

A lot has changed for Cameron Jesse Cox ’12 (sociology) since he matriculated in 2008. Cox began his stint at UMass undeclared but was considering a career in business through the Isenberg School of Management. Four years later, his career interests have become the antipode of that now distant memory.

“I had been offered a chance to be admitted [to ISOM] through a Residential Academic Program sponsored by the Ernst & Young Foundation University Fund,” says Cox. But it didn’t take very long to discover that business did not suit him, so he began the search for something different.

Three weeks into his sophomore year Cox discovered a rousing interest in the Sociology 106: Race Class and Gender class he was taking. Investigating the intersection of these areas, as well as the various forms of oppression prevalent in today’s society, really gripped his attention. “The material was very intriguing, and I realized that a degree in sociology would be suitable for a potential career in social service,” he says.

After attending an FBI information workshop in the spring of 2009 at Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s national convention, Cox sought a certificate in Criminal Justice and began thinking about a career in law enforcement. “The [Sociology] Department has allowed me to combine both the general study of sociology with a concentration in criminology,” says the ambitious senior.

Like most students, Cox was overwhelmed by the size and possibilities UMass offers, though he quickly found his niche. “[UMass] can appear to be overwhelming, [but] once you start to establish your circle of contacts, and you find yourself getting involved with the extra-curricular activities, the campus [shrinks] in size,” he says.

The Springfield, Massachusetts, native had never lived outside the state, so Cox took full advantage of the University’s study abroad and domestic exchange programs, which allow students to go virtually anywhere in the world. As a first semester junior, he studied in Shanghai, China, where he learned conversational Mandarin Chinese and became an astute observer of Chinese culture.

Second semester junior year Cox ditched the east coast for the west, traveling to Los Angeles and studying at California State University, Northbridge. “UMass will afford you the opportunity to cross boundaries, sharpen your academic skills, equip you with the tools necessary to succeed in your industry of choice, and prepare you for the inevitable daily trenches of adult life,” he says of his experiences away from home.

Looking to broaden his understanding of the world, Cox has taken advantage of community service opportunities. During spring break in 2010, he journeyed south of New Orleans to Dulac, Louisiana. There he volunteered for the Houma Nation, a Louisiana-based tribe, working as a member of the Civic Interfaith Alliance to rebuild a community recreation center destroyed by Hurricane Gustav. Just a few weeks ago, Cox joined the Cape Verdean Student Alliance in Cape Verde for his second alternative spring break trip. Cox also serves as the president of Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans. His work in the fraternity is focused on ameliorating educational, economic, political and social injustices that African-Americans face.

The senior’s hard work and determination have not gone unrecognized. Last year Cox was awarded the Gordon and Dolores Sutton Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to undergraduate students who attend the University after overcoming personal hardship. “I don't receive much support from my parents, so at times I feel like I have only myself to depend on,” he says. “Then I realize resources like the Sutton Scholarship have been the support system that has assisted me along the way. Winning the Sutton scholarship signifies the struggle that I have been through to get where I am today and [reminds me] of the great things I have to accomplish in the future,” says Cox.

Discount Cox from the ever-growing list of graduates who haven’t the faintest idea what they want to do upon graduation. His aspirations for success translate well beyond his career as an undergraduate. “My dream is to be Dr. Cameron Jesse Cox before age 30!” he says. “I want to receive a doctorate in psychology and work as a family violence counselor… I want to devote my life to improving the mental psyche of [domestic violence victims.]”

Cox’s story underscores that college is the time and place to expand your knowledge base and to take advantage of opportunities right in front of you. “The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a special place, and I can honestly say that in my four years, I haven’t had one dull moment,” he says. Cox challenges other students to find a path and adhere to it while in college: “Make your college career a memorable one, seek truth and foster originality.”

Tyler Manoukian '13 (journalism) is a communication intern in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Dean's Office.