30 in 30 proudly features the accomplishments of thirty UIC Sociology alumni over the course of thirty weeks. Each week, we 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. Scroll down to learn more about your fellow alums!
Do you want to be profiled? Email Kirsten at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list for an upcoming semester!
Dr. Kevin Lamarr James
BA, Sociology, Hampton University, 2001
MA, Sociology, UIC, 2004
PhD, Sociology, UIC, 2010
Full circle at UIC Sociology!
Dr. Kevin James is the current Director of Service Learning in the department of Sociology at UIC. Dr. James is interested in many things, as was obvious by his oft-changing undergrad plans, but upon taking his first sociology class he realized that he could get a degree in – not just something that interested him – but in something for which he felt passionate. Frequenting local book stores’ social science sections became the norm as he soaked up sociology topics that resonated with his own experiences growing up. While working on his PhD, Kevin started teaching both at UIC and in South Bend, Indiana. Realizing that teaching was a good fit, he joined UIC as a full-time professor.
His desire to work with students and be involved with them has led him to his current position of Director of Service Learning, which entails creating partnerships in the community for UIC seniors to work with during their senior capstone course. The partnerships allow students both to gain experience and to give back to the communities that UIC serves. What’s his favorite part about his job? Working with the students and the partners – the personal component. He loves to see the students take learned theoretical ideas and turn them into practice.
The “ultimate inter-disciplinary degree”
One specific thing Dr. James likes about sociology is the distinctions between levels of interaction from the individual up through the institutional and cultural, and he believes that being aware of these different interactions is knowledge that can be applied to any field a person chooses to go into, allowing sociologists to do well in many different career areas. Kevin thinks that it is beneficial for students to study sociology so they become aware of “the issues that exist in society and see them in the different layers they actually appear in.” He also believes that sociology is the “ultimate inter-disciplinary degree” and that to get the most out of it one should pair it with a double major, a minor, or grad school to help narrow your interests.
Advice for current undergraduates
Kevin has two pieces of advice for current undergraduate students: Don’t avoid opportunities and people because of fear and don’t worry about trying to please everybody! He especially suggests that students take advantage of everything college has to offer – which is what they are paying for. If a class sounds interesting, take it – you might just find your passion!
Passion has recently hit Kevin again as he ponders the too-low graduation rates at UIC and a desire to do even more to help the UIC community has been stirring inside of him. He dreams of creating an organization that can mentor and guide college students – especially those lacking outside support – in navigating the often-overwhelming institution that college can be.
Out in nature
When he’s not mentoring students, Kevin can be found at his property in the Chicago suburbs, allowing him to foster his love of nature and the outdoors – though he admits he would prefer to do a little more relaxing in said nature and a little less weed-pulling. His one-year-old giant schnauzer, Oscar, and his three cat siblings have no complaints!
Interview by Jamie Yager