Living Sociology

Living Sociology front coverOriginally posted as the series, 30 in 30: 30 Alumni Stories in 30 Weeks, this booklet is the product of conversations between alumni (and one very special faculty emerita!) and current students. 30 in 30 was so well-received that we decided to gather them together here, in the same order they originally appeared, to share with a broader audience in a more lasting format. (Click on the image to view a PDF of Living Sociology: Student Interviews of UIC Sociology Alumni.)
If you would like a copy of Living Sociology, please email Kirsten Andersen. We would love to share it with you!



30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Mildred Schwartz (Week 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 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 to get on the list for an upcoming semester!

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Dr. Mildred Schwartz, Professor Emerita

BA, Sociology, University of Toronto, 1954
MA, Sociology, University of Toronto, 1956
PhD, Sociology, Columbia University, 1965

Pursuing sociology
Dr. Mildred Schwartz was raised in Toronto, Canada, and attended the University of Toronto, where she found sociology. After finishing her bachelor’s degree, she went on to work in a government agency, a workplace she found to be rife with sexism. Inspired by her work experience, Mildred decided to return to school, with hopes of effecting change. She finished her master’s degree in sociology in 1956, after which she started to work at an advertising agency. However, her love of sociology drew her once more, and she applied and completed her PhD in sociology at Columbia University in 1965. She applied to many teaching positions in the United States after finishing her degree and found a job with UIC’s Circle Campus!

A lifetime love of sociology
Dr. Schwartz’s favorite part about her academic career is research and writing. She also very much enjoyed spending time with her undergraduate students. Mildred says she loves the field of sociology because it is limitless! Sociologists never run out of questions to ask and there are always new and different ways to go about finding answers.

Despite her success, Dr. Schwartz did encounter hardships in her career. One of her main battles was against the frequent sexism she encountered. For instance, she did not receive equal pay compared to her male counterparts, endured discriminatory remarks, and faced resentment for her success in publishing and teaching. Despite these challenges, she forged ahead and had – and continues to have – a successful career.

Advice for current students
Dr. Schwartz believes that a sociology degree is suitable for many fields. She has worked for a government agency, advertising agency, and in the academic field using her sociology degrees. She also says there are many not-for profit and some for profit agencies that hire students with sociology degrees. Undergraduate students learn statistics and theory that is very beneficial in a wide variety of workplaces. Dr. Schwartz says that although the world is a very different place than it was in her time, sociology is as relevant as it has ever been because it teaches you to be more intelligent about the world in which we live. She says if she could go back in time and give herself a piece of advice, it would be to have more confidence in herself. She grew up in a household where she was not encouraged to continue her studies, and she encourages others to be confident in their interests and capabilities.

Prolific, even in retirement!
Mildred is currently retired and resides in New Jersey. However, she still does sociology for fun! In her free time, she reads and writes about sociology because it keeps her engaged in the world. For fun, she likes to go to New York University to spend time with students and colleagues. Five years from now, she sees herself starting a new project and to continue publishing books. Someday she says she will really retire and take a break from her academic career…just not any time soon!

Interviewed by Stephanie Munoz

30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Kevin Lamarr James (Week 29)

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 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 to get on the list for an upcoming semester!

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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!

Future plans?!
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

30 in 30 Presents: Alison Moss (Week 28)

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Alison Moss

BA, Gender and Women’s Studies, Indiana University, 2007
MA, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2010

World experience led to further education
After finishing her associate’s degree at the age of 19, Alison got married, traveled the country following some bands, and worked in a family business. She realized that she did not find her work fulfilling and decided to return to school at Indiana University South Bend. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies. During her time at IU South Bend, she took a class on the sociology of gender and knew that she had found the discipline for her. This passion grew and she continued on to UIC, where she received her master’s degree in Sociology.

The power of sociology
Alison believes there is great benefit for those who study sociology, as it helps students to understand not only society but themselves as well. For Alison, a queer woman of color, sociology was empowering, as it helped her to understand the social structures that have made accomplishing some of her goals more difficult. Because of sociology, Alison understands the structural and institutional forces that have negatively impacted her life.

Advice for students
Alison encourages students of sociology to pursue a range of careers without even needing to pursue graduate degrees. For instance, Alison believes that those with a sociology degree would be an asset to the medical field, because they interact with diverse populations. She says the ability to collect and analyze data is a valuable skill that employers will appreciate. She also suggests that sociology prepares students to be successful in marketing and business because these industries require professionals to administer surveys and conduct interviews. Because it is a diverse area of study, Alison believes that students of sociology have a broad selection of job opportunities.

Alison’s passion
Alison discovered that her passion is in teaching. Her dream position is to be a faculty member at Indiana University South Bend, so that she can teach students who have not been exposed to diverse people and situations about the reality of society.

30 in 30 Presents: William “Buddy” Scarborough (Week 27)

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William “Buddy” Scarborough

BA, Sociology, Alma College
MA, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago

Two loves in one
Buddy began his undergraduate career at Alma College playing football and intending to pursue social work. That is, until he took a sociology class. He says that sociology sort of “fell into his lap” and he really enjoyed learning about social issues and inequalities, as well as how such disparities are created and perpetuated. He says he fell in love with sociology during his first class at Alma College, but that wasn’t all! He also met his future wife, Emily, during his first sociology class. It was loves at first sight!

From Michigan to South Africa
After graduating from Alma College and getting married, Buddy and Emily joined the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps brought them to South Africa, where Buddy says he learned what sociology had provided the background for him to understand. During his time in South Africa, he learned how to speak Zulu and SiSwati. He also ran programs for children, through which he helped address some of the educational inequalities in South Africa.

From South Africa to Chicago
After finishing his time in the Peace Corps, Buddy was ready to apply for graduate programs in sociology, having affirmed his love of the discipline through his work in South Africa. He decided to pursue his degree at UIC in the Windy City. He has completed his Master’s degree and is currently writing his dissertation. His research primarily focuses on inequalities in the labor market in large cities in the United States. Specifically, he looks at gendered wage inequalities. Buddy enjoys the ability to run as many statistical analyses as he needs in pursuit of his findings.

Advice for others
Buddy says that a degree in sociology can help people in any industry – from dentistry to teaching or research. If everyone shares the knowledge they’ve acquired as students of sociology, the knowledge of the discipline will be able to effect change in society, such as the gendered differences in compensation and in work environments.

A great support system
Buddy says he is grateful to sociology for bringing him to the love of his life, who is a wonderful support. He also gets terrific support from his advisor, Barbara Risman, who works hard to guide and teach Buddy as he works toward completing his doctoral degree.

30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Jerry Hendricks (Week 26)

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Dr. Jerry Hendricks

BA, History, Northeastern Illinois University, 2008
MA, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2010
PhD, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2016

Using his research background in the private sector
Dr. Hendricks currently works as a Senior Research Analyst at the Resource Systems Group (RSG) in Chicago. On most days, Dr. Hendricks’ analyst positions allows him to consult with companies about consumer trends and survey design and administration. He conducts quantitative analyses and presents results to clients. “No day is the same,” Jerry says, which is something he loves about his job at RSG.

Changing paths
While Dr. Hendricks was working on his doctoral degree in sociology at UIC, he worked as a teaching assistant and adjunct professor. Because he enjoyed and excelled at teaching undergraduate students of sociology at UIC, DePaul University, and the Illinois Institute of Technology, he thought he would pursue work as a professor after graduating. However, after graduating, Jerry found his job at RSG, which enables him to combine his love of sociology, the research skills he attained in graduate school, and serve a client base.

Advice for students
Dr. Hendricks says if you really want to use your sociology degree to your advantage, practice relating your undergraduate coursework and professional experience to a potential career. “If I could go back in time to give myself some advice, I would say learn to code, because it is a very valuable skill to have.” Being able to speak the language of computers will make you an asset to any company, particularly when paired with a sociological lens on the world.

Why choose sociology?
Jerry believes that sociology is a degree that many people pursue intending to engage in activism and social justice, but a sociology degree applies to much more than activism. For him, sociology has shaped the way he understands and interprets the world. He feels that if more people had the knowledge of a sociologist, they would understand that society is made up of individuals and without one, the other couldn’t exist. For instance, sociological research can demonstrate how institutions affect individuals and circumstances, which can also be useful to policy makers searching for more effective solutions.

For fun
Since completing graduate school, Jerry has been able to spend more time with his family. He also plays in a rock band called Mile.

Interview by Myia Scott

30 in 30 Presents: Elyse Bielser (Week 25)

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Elyse Bielser

BA, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2014

From central Illinois to Chicago
Elyse grew up in central Illinois and coming to Chicago for college exposed her to many new languages, cultures, and experiences. She took classes at both the UIC (Chicago) and U of I (Urbana-Champaign) campuses and felt that she learned more and different things from her classes at UIC, where, for her, the professors and the diversity had much more to offer. Elyse fell in love with sociology at UIC and took multiple classes in sociology and gender and women’s studies. She felt that the more classes she took, the more everything started to make sense.

Digging deep
During her time at UIC, Elyse took classes in which she learned a lot about Jim Crow laws, the War on Drugs, the prison pipeline, and gentrification. Because of where she grew up, Elyse was not exposed to such topics. The class showed her the effects such structures and processes have on groups of people. She learned a lot while studying at UIC, particularly about different perspectives and how things affect people differently, which has helped her in her current job.

Advocating for children
Currently, Elyse is a child abuse and neglect investigator in Kansas, and is in the process of becoming a foster care caseworker. Her main responsibilities as an investigator are to read the reports that are made regarding abuse or neglect of a child. She responds to the report by conducting interviews with the child to see how the children’s report does or does not reflect the formal report. After meeting with the child, Elyse speaks with parents and does a home visit. She will also talk with school staff, teachers, and anyone else connected to the child to get as much information as possible. This work requires her to use interview skills, to analyze the information given, and to draw conclusions about the next steps to be taken.

Watching children flourish
Elyse’s job is emotionally challenging but she loves what she does. Her favorite part about the job is engaging with the children for whom she is advocating and protecting. She loves seeing them grow and their personalities change.

For fun
If she’s not working, you can find Elyse taking mini road trips with her husband, white-water rafting, and planning for her next accomplishment: graduate school! She plans to go to law school or obtain a master’s in sociology.

Interviewed by Jacqueline Elizondo