30 in 30 Presents: Jennifer Parsons (Week 23)

Jennifer Parsons 30in30

Jennifer Parsons

BA, Sociology, UIC, 1991
MA, Sociology, UIC, 1993

Current work
Jennifer is Research Operations Director at the Survey Research Lab (SRL) at UIC. She has been a part of SRL since she graduated in 1993. Her job includes three distinct parts. The first part is administrative, which includes supervising staff, project coordinators who work with clients, and the field staff who oversees data and collection activities. The second part of her job is doing intake. When a client calls and is interested in working on a proposal, Jennifer is the one to work with them. She helps them figure out the best study design and methods for their research. Once that is decided, she then helps prepare a customized budget for each project, which varies depending on the research. Different considerations go into creating a budget, such as pricing out the costs between a two-page mail survey and a twenty-page booklet. If a proposal and budget is approved, Jennifer draws up the contracts, and they all get to work on the project. The last part of her job is working one-on-one with the client to make a good survey and, ultimately, a quality research project. Jennifer also is the person who submits the projects to the IRB. She is always managing multiple projects. Her favorite part about her job is the challenge that each new project brings.

Happening upon UIC
Jennifer began her undergraduate career in Iowa but decided to take a semester off to go to England with two friends. The three friends got work visas and, despite arriving in London with no jobs or apartments, quickly found work at Harrods. While there, her mother fell ill and she returned to Chicago to help at home. One she was back in the United States, Jennifer transferred to UIC to continue her studies.

Deciding between graduate school and a career
As an undergraduate, Jennifer took a survey methods course with Richard Wernicke, a faculty member in sociology at the time. Having developed a great relationship with him, he offered Jennifer a research internship after receiving her bachelor’s degree. She took the research internship with Richard Wernicke and an internship with the American Medical Association in the survey department, and started her master’s degree in sociology. Jennifer completed her master’s degree in 1993 and jumped right into the Sociology PhD program at UIC. As she started working more at the Survey Research Lab, she was not able to devote enough time to her PhD. Jennifer took all the classes and took the exam but did not finish her dissertation and she does not regret it one bit. She was pulled more towards work than her education, and now she enjoys her career and considers it to be very academic.

In her free time
When Jennifer is not managing research projects, she enjoys watching her son play basketball, baking with her daughter, and watching old movies. Jennifer and her daughter like to bake scones, cookies, bars, cobblers, and pies. At the time of the interview, her family was watching all the Hitchcock films. Jennifer is married to a Greek man and says that when they first started dating, her life was like the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She has traveled to Greece a few times with her husband, but this summer was the first time they went as a family!


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