30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Korie Edwards (Week 19)

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!

Dr Korie Edwards 30in30

Dr. Korie Edwards

PhD, Sociology, UIC, 2004
MA, Sociology, UIC, 2000
BS, Civil Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1994

Current work
Dr. Edwards is an Associate Professor of Sociology at The Ohio State University. Her research primarily focuses on the intersectional relationship of race and religion. In particular, her work examines how religious organizations and religious leaders address and are impacted by race. Dr. Edwards says that her favorite part about her job is teaching graduate level courses because she learns new things from her students, who have their own experiences and backgrounds. Dr. Edwards also loves that her job enables her to produce new knowledge, a task at which she has excelled. She has published three books and fifteen chapters/articles, delivered fifty-five presentations, and worked on four different grants, the largest of which totaled over one million dollars for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From Civil Engineering to … Sociology?
Dr. Edwards’ undergraduate education was in civil engineering, and after graduating she took a job with the Illinois Department of Transportation. After working and attending church with groups of people in which she found the leadership to be consistently white – despite colleagues of color with equivalent degrees and qualifications – she began to ask questions about the privilege some groups have over others. Research in her local library led her to the topic of sociology, where she found her true passion. Dr. Edwards applied to the sociology doctoral program at UIC and never looked back!

Dr. Edwards’ time at UIC
Dr. Edwards gained the ability to understand her world, experiences, and history while studying sociology at UIC. Her experience in graduate school was more than she expected because it opened her eyes to the world, gave her the tools to understand and study it, and to be able to produce knowledge to share. During her time at UIC, Dr. Edwards came to believe that underprivileged groups have, in some ways, a responsibility to produce knowledge, because knowledge can only be produced from a person’s individual standpoint.

Advice for students
We can only understand our social world once we understand who we are in relationship to others in a given social group. To develop this understanding, you should cultivate your sociological imagination (C. Wright Mills).

Fun facts
As a child, Dr. Edwards wanted to be a dancer, and still loves to watch Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater whenever she has the chance. Her ultimate dream is to own a beach home where she can relax, read a book and enjoy the beautiful view.

Interviewed by Stephanie Munoz


30 in 30 Presents: Laura Garza (Week 18)

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Laura Garza

BA, Sociology, UIC, 1997

Current work
In 1997, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had an influx of Latino workers who needed immigration and labor help. The demand for a bilingual liaison to assist with this new relationship led to the beginning of Laura’s important work that has spanned two decades. Laura is currently the Secretary/Treasurer for SEIU and her responsibilities are numerous. She currently oversees union operations for Midwest states outside of Illinois. Additionally, she oversees SEIU’s research department and, as treasurer, the union’s funds. Part of her job is working to build relationships with building owners, contractors, and community leaders as well as continuing her crucial immigration work with the union.

Connecting the personal and the social through sociology
Laura always wanted to work with communities in some capacity. Unsure of what that would look like, she was inspired by a friend and mentor – a sociology student at UIC – who suggested she take a sociology class. Social movements and sociology of gender classes were particularly interesting to Laura, and she remembers the impact Nilda Flores-Gonzales had on her, which continues to this day. Laura’s own experience as a Latina immigrant from Mexico, whose mother was a single mom of four, helped her connect with many of the concepts she studied in her sociology classes.

Advice for young students of sociology
Laura was a hardworking and involved student during her time at UIC and her advice to other students represents what her life’s work has been about: get involved. Although UIC is primarily a commuter school, Laura suggests that it is important to not just come and go, but find ways to connect at the school. She points out that there are many good things happening at UIC that can expand minds.

Inspiring the next generation of advocates
A wife and mother of two, Laura’s family is incredibly important to her, and she spends as much time as possible with them. Her passion for community involvement has rubbed off on her children; her daughter was recently involved in school action to save a teacher’s job. Laura, with her extensive know-how, was able to guide her daughter in the art of successful labor action. Laura’s advice to her daughter was that making an impact is not a one-time event, but an ongoing campaign that may require different components such as sit-ins, marches, media, and letters.

Future plans
Apart from continuing her important work with the union, Laura–a lover of dance–has promised herself that she will take some dance lessons before she hits retirement age!

Interviewed by Jamie Yager

30 in 30 Presents: Magaly Flores (Week 17)

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Magaly Flores

BA, Sociology, UIC, 2015

Current work
Magaly is a Project Assistant for the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council, which informs organizations of best practices related to environment, health, and safety standards. Ms. Flores’ favorite part of her job is building relationships with and working closely with volunteers at the Campbell Institute.

What attracted Magaly to sociology
Magaly has always wanted to help people, so she thought that an education in sociology would help her to do just that. Since people are often comfortable with those who are like them, she wanted an education that would help her break out of her comfort zone and learn more about others who are different from her.

Shout out!
To Dr. Amy Bailey in the department, whose passion for sociology inspired Magaly to learn more about it and ultimately to declare sociology as her major.

Finding a job as a sociology major
While Magaly encountered a few potential employers who did not know the skill-set that her degree in sociology equipped her with, many others recognized the value of her degree. Magaly found that being confident in her skills and knowledge and applying to a wide range of jobs was a winning combination for finding the job she now has and loves!

Advice for sociology majors
Get involved with the Sociology department because it opens doors for students, through relationships, mentorship, and other opportunities. It will also help you to meet new people, including other undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. Also, when applying for jobs, cast a wide net. You never know all the jobs your sociology degree has prepared you for, until you apply and interview.

Fun facts
Magaly loves to listen to music in her free time, when she’s working out or relaxing. She loves a variety of music, from Spanish music to rock, and recently has enjoyed Artic Monkeys and Interpol.

Interviewed by Stephanie Munoz

30 in 30 Presents: Ronisha Edwards (Week 16)


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Ronisha Edwards

BA, Sociology and Criminology, Law and Justice, UIC, 2015
MSW, Boise State University, Expected 2018

Current work
Ronisha hasn’t stopped for a moment since graduating from UIC in 2015. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Social Work while working as a Case Manager at Metropolitan Family Services (MFS). Prior to her work at MFS, Ronisha was a clinical coordinator for sickle cell patients at UIC hospital, a job she was offered after several years volunteering there as an undergraduate. The job was near and dear to her, as Ronisha not only supports the sickle cell community, she lives with the disease as well.

Ronisha’s time at UIC Sociology
Ms. Edwards began as a biology major, but soon decided to follow her passion for sociology and never looked back. She said that her time at UIC opened her eyes to social stratification, oppression of women, the workings of capitalism and many other challenges of society. Sociology taught Ronisha about power, and that it doesn’t just come from money. She has chosen to use her power to impact the world by counseling youth and supporting minority communities. Her degree helps her to understand why people do what they do, and how groups are impacted by their position in broader society when working with these communities.

An award-winning student
Ronisha was also the winner of the Patrick Juris Award while at UIC Sociology, which is awarded each year to a graduating senior who has achieved academic excellence and been of service to the community.

Advice for students of UIC Sociology
Do what you love and never be ashamed of who you are!

Future plans
There is no pause ahead for Ronisha. She intends to publish the research she did while working at UIC hospital with sickle cell patients in the near future. After completing her Master’s in Social Work, Ronisha also eventually plans to get a Master’s in Public Policy, to prepare her to serve in Congress one day. In addition to her busy work and school life, she is also preparing for her wedding in the coming year. Congratulations Ronisha!

Interviewed by Stephanie Munoz

30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Chiquita Collins (Week 15)

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Dr. Chiquita Collins

BA, Sociology, UIC, 1990
PhD, Sociology, University of Michigan, 1996

Current work
Dr. Collins is the Director and Associate Dean for Diversity and Cultural Competence at the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. She is also Assistant Professor of Medicine. She says that a sociology degree prepares you for work in any field because of all the skills students acquire in their training as sociologists. Although Chiquita did not pursue a medical degree, she always wanted to work in the medical field. Dr. Collins’ current position at Johns Hopkins allows her to work in the medical field, using her PhD in Sociology. As an Associate Dean of Diversity, Chiquita brings a different perspective to innovations while diversifying higher education at John Hopkins medical school. As a diversity officer, she assists 33 departments in the School of Medicine. She focuses on diversifying faculty, training, and challenging unconscious biases at work to provide a pipeline for young people.

Dr. Collins’ time at UIC Sociology
Chiquita enjoyed her time at UIC Sociology in large part because of the instructors and mentors she encountered. Dr. Darnell Hawkins and Dr. Richard Barrett, now emeriti faculty, are some of the professors whose mentorship guided her through her undergraduate experience and encouraged her to attend graduate school, a possibility she had not considered prior to her time at UIC. As an undergraduate, she was interested in population studies and demography, and she continued research on migration, mortality, and birth during her graduate studies.

Advice for students of Sociology
Dr. Collins says that everyone has to write their own story. She encourages students to be bold and try new things!

A true Chicagoan at heart
Dr. Collins wore her Cubs gear for a week straight after they claimed victory in the World Series last year. Although she no longer resides in Chicago, she will always be a Cubs fun. Fly the W! When she is home visiting Chicago, Chiquita enjoys visiting with family and eating Harold’s chicken and Chicago-style pizza.

Interviewed by Myia Scott

30 in 30 Presents: Jenny Calero (Week 14)

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Jenny Calero

BA, Sociology, UIC, 2014
MA, Urban Planning and Policy, UIC, Expected 2018

UIC’s diversity drew Jenny in
Growing up in Cicero, a predominately Latino neighborhood, Jenny felt that she was not exposed to a lot of diversity, but she wanted to explore differences in cultures and races. Driving down I-290 with her parents, Jenny would always notice the big University of Illinois at Chicago sign. When it came time to explore college options, she remembered the sign and decided to research the university. She learned that UIC had great diversity among its student body and it was close to home, making UIC an easy choice.

Finding sociology
Jenny decided to take an Introduction to Sociology class, which sparked her interest in the field. The class included the topics of race and gender, which Jenny wasn’t used to hearing people discuss. Talking about such controversial topics only sparked Jenny’s interest even more in the field and led her to choose sociology as a major. During her time as an undergraduate, Jenny had the opportunity to work with Dr. Lorena Garcia on an independent study in which they worked to connect the book From Barrios to Burbs to race.

From Sociology to Urban Planning and Policy
After graduating, Jenny decided to apply to UIC’s Urban Planning and Policy Master’s program. She was accepted and will graduate with her degree at the end of this year! Jenny says her sociological background is a great way to bring a different lens to working with communities in urban planning. Once she graduates, Jenny plans to work for the City of Chicago or a small municipality like the town she grew up in.

Working toward her degree
Currently, Jenny works as a population health coordinator. She works directly with patients and the doctors; Jenny’s goal is to make the patient comfortable enough to want to follow through with their healthcare. She loves her job because she gets to work with patients one-on-one and she feels that her sociological background allows her to be able to understand the patient’s background and understand where they are coming from when they make certain decisions.

Fun facts!
During her spare time, Jenny loves to learn new and exciting things like traveling to different countries, learning a new language, and learning how to play the piano. She also enjoys running and tries to set new goals all the time, because of those goals she will be running her first marathon this year.

Interviewed by Jacqueline Elizondo


30 in 30 Presents: Salma Ayaz (Week 13)

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Salma Ayaz

BA, Sociology, UIC, 2014
MSW, Aurora University, Expected 2017

Current work
After researching graduate programs, Salma decided on a Masters of Social Work (MSW) because she felt the program best combined her love of psychology and sociology. Salma’s experience with sociology at UIC changed the way she saw the world and has led her down a different path than the one she started on. She currently attends Aurora University where she is working on her MSW.

How sociology changed Salma’s view of the world
Salma says that people are often unaware of what others experience, which makes it difficult to see beyond a narrow lens. Taking classes on race and gender helped her learn about the historical and current struggles that others experience, allowing her to become more aware and open-minded. Salma’s most memorable class was a 400-level race class with Dr. Amy Bailey. This advanced-level class not only increased her sociological knowledge, but prepared her for her master’s-level courses. Salma believes that everyone, despite their college major, could benefit from a sociology class in race and gender – it changes minds!

Advice for new students of sociology
Salma recommends paying attention in class, reading the material the professor gives you (yes, even you seniors!), and to attend professors’ office hours – they are there to help you. She thinks it is important to participate in class, especially when you have a unique perspective to offer.

What will Salma do with her MSW?
Passionate about working with children, Salma is completing a school social work emphasis through her MSW. Sociology helped her realize that because environment can impact one’s actions, working with kids while they are young can help change their lives and their patterns. As part of her master’s program, Salma interns at a local elementary school as a School Social Worker. As a social worker, she provides extra support for school children, helping them learn to interact better with others, control their anger and emotions, and learn to express themselves more adequately. Her responsibilities also involve working with all those who have an impact on the child, such as parents, teachers, and various agencies. This challenging job is both time-consuming and emotional, but interacting with the children and seeing positive breakthroughs has been extremely rewarding for her.

Down the road
Salma’s eventful past year getting married may seem just a prelude to her coming year’s graduation and relocation to Texas, where she hopes to find employment as a school social worker. Her passion to help traumatized children will eventually lead to the realization of her own private practice. In addition, Salma hopes to be able to contribute to her field through research, and perhaps instruction in a college class shaped by both sociology and psychology.

Interviewed by Jamie Yager