Sarah Toutant, Bachelor's in Critical Diversity Studies '16
Find Your Voice from Here
Enrolling at USF is a chance to find your voice, and an opportunity to speak out for others. Just ask Sarah Toutant.
What a difference three years has made for Sarah Toutant ’16.
Watching her speak to a group of 2,000 newly admitted USF students and their families with ease and confidence, it's hard to imagine the timid freshman she once was.
“My friend remembers when she first met me. She told me, 'You were so shy and quiet, and now you're completely different,'” Sarah says. “The community USF creates really helped me come out of my shell.”
It's also helped her discover her passion: making higher education more accessible to underrepresented minorities. She's cultivated it through her leadership inside and outside the classroom, including as Black Student Union president.
USF makes an individual connection. A lot of times bigger schools can't do that. Within USF, I've met so many people and been offered so many cool opportunities. I wouldn't have had as many opportunities to get involved at a larger university.”
Sarah remembers her first semester of sociology vividly.
“It was with Associate Professor Hwaji Shin. She challenged us and opened our eyes to how our world works,” Sarah says. “The class gave me the words to describe things I understood but couldn't articulate before, like 'institutionalized racism.'”
The class had such an impact that Sarah decided to double major in sociology and critical diversity studies, an interdisciplinary program that explores historical and contemporary issues through the lenses of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual identity, and religion. Her studies dovetailed with her own experience as an African American.
During her sophomore year, Sarah became an intern in USF's Multicultural Recruitment Office, traveling to college fairs, giving campus tours, and planning overnight visits for prospective students.
“I talk to high school students who want to hear from a person of color who can relate to their lives,” she says. “I've heard from some that I really influenced their decision to come.”
The work has been rewarding and also helped her envision a career as a leader in higher education. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree and become a director of admissions or student life.
“USF allowed me to gain leadership experience and get comfortable with myself. I don't think I would've figured out my passion if it weren't for USF,” she says.