30 in 30 Presents: Fiama Gaitan (Week 3)

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30 in 30 proudly features the accomplishments of thirty UIC Sociology alumni over the course of thirty weeks. Each week, we will feature a new alumnus/a of the department. The individuals profiled were each interviewed by one of our very own graduating seniors, who had the opportunity to learn about the many fascinating paths our alumni take. Follow along with us and learn more about your fellow alums over the next 30 weeks!

Do you want to be profiled? Email Kirsten at kander48@uic.edu to get on the list for the Fall 2017 semester!

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Fiama Gaitan

BA, Sociology, UIC 2014

Current Job
Natatorium Instructor, Chicago Park District

On finding sociology
Like many other alums, Fiama started out with another major, in biology, which she left after taking a Sociology 100 course. It was SOC 100 that sparked her love and passion for sociology.

What Fiama loves about sociology
Sociology made Fiama look at the world from a different perspective. What she loves the most is that it helps her see situations from various points of view. She can always question a situation using her sociological knowledge. Fiama also thinks sociology is important because it reflects our society, which is always changing!

How faculty influenced Fiama
All of the faculty members Fiama took classes with were very involved with the students in their courses. Not only did they help her with courses, they pushed students to engage with one another in order to create connections and network on campus. Because of the efforts from the faculty in the sociology department, Fiama’s perception of what can happen in classrooms changed.

Bringing sociology to work
Fiama works for the Chicago Park District as a swimming instructor. She began working for the Chicago Park District at the age of 16 and began to move her way up throughout her undergraduate career. Although sociology does not directly connect to her job, she has found ways to use the skills she acquired as a sociology major to help her be successful. For instance, Fiama explains how the courses on gender and culture she took at UIC inform her understanding and appreciation of the many types of people she meets every day.

Interviewed by Itzayana Alvarado

30 in 30 Presents: Dan Lowman (Week 2)


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Dan Lowman

BA, Sociology, UIC 1996 (Minors in Spanish and History)

Current Job
Dan is currently at Grenzebach Glier and Associates (GG+A) working as the Senior Vice President of Analytics & Director of the Philanthropy Survey Lab. He works as a consultant for the company, advising non-profit organizations and providing counsel on how to excel at raising philanthropic private support. Dan’s clients have included the Advancement offices at UIC and UIUC, as well as hundreds of other universities, healthcare organizations, museums, and national organizations. His consulting with non-profit organizations involves market research, similar to the way that companies research their ideal customers.

How sociology helped Dan find his career
Before beginning his career at GG+A, Dan was applying for graduate school and the U.S. Peace Corps at the same time. The Peace Corps contacted him first and he was soon on his way to Slovakia. He spent two years there and another year traveling around Eastern Europe and Asia. On a flight back to Chicago from Tokyo, he was frantically applying for jobs. He initially started with an interest in journalism or communications, but was called into a job that would channel his statistics skills learned from sociology courses at UIC.

From UIC Sociology to the Philanthropy Survey Lab
He started out as a project assistant at GG+A and worked his way to being the director of a small analytics unit with just two employees. SPSS analysis software, which he first encountered in his first statistics class at UIC, was introduced into the company.  Soon, GG+A became known for its approach to “evidence-based” consulting, and it eventually became the Philanthropy Survey Lab. “It’s not enough to be right when you are advising a client,” Dan says, “you also have to prove it, and they have to believe you.”

Why sociology still informs Dan’s work on a daily basis
Dan finds that his job relies heavily on statistics, data, and drawing empirical conclusions; he credits his background in sociology as being critical to his success in his industry. He calls this the nuts and bolts of sociology that pull the larger work together. Understanding social science methodology, such as how to write effective survey questions, or framing a testable research question, is something he values in his job every day. Also important is data visualization and the importance of presenting academic quality research to a non-academic audience. Further, his sociological education helps him to see the “big picture” social issues related to philanthropy. This is especially crucial in the way that his market research relies on analyzing data between different and competing donors for non-profit organizations, and how issues of class, wealth, gender, and geo-demographics affect how charitable gifts are made, which organizations will get them, and what impact that has on society. Dan feels strongly that applied sociology must not be purely quantitative, but a mix of logic, math, creativity, and human interaction, all supported by evidence, and this is what makes his career exciting for him.

Fun Facts about Dan
Dan and his wife, Robin—a fellow UIC alumna, have three incredibly talented children; one is a champion member of the Chicago Middle School Debate League, another is the banjo player in The Basement Bluegrass Band, and the youngest is very influenced by 80’s punk music and yet is still very polite and charming. Last year, Dan traveled to Alaska and in so doing achieved a lifelong dream to visit all 50 states.  He is currently working on a book about the history of moonshine and American whiskey, and he admits freely that research on whiskey is more fun than writing about it!

Interviewed by Jocelyn Diaz

30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Eduardo Garza (Week 1)


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Dr. Eduardo Garza

PhD, Educational Leadership, DePaul University
Master’s, Urban Planning and Policy, UIC
Bachelor’s, Sociology, UIC

Current job
Dean of Student Services, Richard J. Daley College in Chicago, Illinois

On studying sociology…
Dr. Garza chose Sociology as his major because he is fascinated by the study of people and how they interact. He took an elective with Dr. Nilda Flores-Gonzalez and fell in love with sociology. His background in community organizing was also a good fit with the major.

Remembering his time in UIC Sociology…
Eduardo’s fondest memories of UIC Sociology are the students he took classes with in the department. They were from many different walks of life, and he learned a lot about them and their diverse perspectives.

What’s most inspiring about the discipline of sociology…
Sociology courses cover a wide spectrum of practical issues occurring in communities, which makes it a great base for pursuing a career in policy, education and many other areas. Dr. Garza also believes that Sociology allows for individuals to better assess community dynamics. A degree in sociology made him a better communicator and more adept at understanding diverse values.

How a background in sociology influenced his career path…
Working in one of Chicago’s City Colleges, Dr. Garza has seen first-hand the tremendous deficit in higher education opportunities for minorities. Given the importance of education for success, he was inspired to work as an agent for change in the field of education, which led him to his current job.

Advice for current or newly graduated UIC Sociology students…
Exposure to many different topics addressed in sociology will help students to find a career path. While classes like theory and methods are interesting, classes that deal with race, class and other topical issues in the real world will help students find career inspiration. Active participation while they are students will prepare new graduates to represent UIC in various professional fields, including health, housing, education and more.

In his free time…
Eduardo loves to be out on the water. He has been sailing for 12 years, which he says helps him to connect with the beauty of nature.

Interview conducted by Luis Duran.

30 in 30

30 in 30 blue 4x3 ratio-0230 in 30 proudly features the accomplishments of thirty UIC Sociology alumni over the course of thirty weeks. Each week, we will feature a new alumnus/a of the department. The individuals profiled were each interviewed by one of our very own graduating seniors, who had the opportunity to learn about the many fascinating paths our alumni take. Follow along with us and learn more about your fellow alums over the next 30 weeks! 

Do you want to be profiled? Email Kirsten at kander48@uic.edu to get on the list for the Fall 2017 semester!

Events to check out on April 24

Departmental Awards & Graduation Celebration
Monday, April 24th
12 – 1:30pm @ BSB 4105

Join the Sociology Department as we announce our departmental awards and celebrate our B.A, M.A, and Ph.D. graduates! Lunch will be provided. (RSVP to: socstudentworker@gmail.com)

Not only will we be celebrating graduates at all three levels of our program, we will be honoring 6 individuals with excellence in sociology. Awards include:

  • David P. Street Dissertation Prize in Engaged Sociology
    • For an outstanding dissertation completed since August 2015 that directly addresses engaged sociology
  • David P. Street Masters Paper Prize
    • To recognize an excellent Masters paper completed since August 2015
  • Patrick Juris Memorial Undergraduate Student Award
    • To recognize a senior who has achieved academic excellence in sociology
  • Graduate Student Teaching Award
    • To recognize a graduate student who excels in teaching
  • Rue Bucher Memorial Award for Qualitative Studies in Social Process
    • To recognize graduate students using qualitative or field methods in their research
  • R. Stephen Warner Faculty Award
    • To recognize a faculty member who has achieved excellence in teaching sociology 

Web Scraping Webinar (free)
Monday, April 24th
4 – 5:30pm @ BSB 4102

Do you use social media in your research? Do you study culture? Are you interested in big data? If so, you may benefit from a webinar being offered by the American Association for Public Opinion Research on how to use R to extract data from the internet (“web scraping”).

We will be showing a free recording of the webinar in our department, generously sponsored by our local AAPOR member! For more info, follow this link (but ignore the date on the site, since we’ll be watching a recording). 


Events to check out this week, April 10-14

Reclaiming Latina Feminism: Reproductive Justice and the Puerto Rican Woman
Tuesday, April 11th
Student Center East White Oak Room AB

UIC Sociology professors, Dr. Lorena Garcia and Dr. Nilda Flores-Gonzalez, along with Dr. Elena Gutierrez, will discuss the lasting impact of the sterilization of Puerto Rican women in the early 20th century on the community today and how it relates to more recent calls for reproductive justice among Latinx.

This is part of The 23rd Annual Pa’Lante Conference: Celebrating Chicago’s Puerto Rican Community and Scholarship, April 10-14, presented by The UIC Union for Puerto Rican Students and co-sponsored by UIC Sociology.

Colloquium with Prof. Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz, Northwestern University
Wednesday, April 12
12-1:30pm @ BSB 4105 

White Demographobia: Race, Media, and the Statisticalization of Latino Threat

“Building a Career with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology”
Friday, April 14
2:00-3:30pm @ BSB 4105

Join us to screen this webinar together, followed by a conversation with Sociology faculty about what to do with a Sociology degree. Pizza and beverages provided!