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

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 upcoming semester!

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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

30 in 30 Presents: Russell Schutt (Week 24)

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Russell K Schutt

BA, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago
MA, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1975
PhD, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1977

Finding sociology
Russell’s greatest academic love Dr. Schutt grew up interested in science and in social problems—civil rights, diversity, and the Vietnam War were topics of interest—and when he took his first sociology class he knew he had found the right fit for both his love of science and social issues, and in his words, he “never really had another love in academia from that point.” Dr. Schutt says that people interact and impact the world in positive ways, but also create challenges that need to be understood and addressed.

A distinguished career in sociology
Upon finishing graduate school, Russell accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University, working on a Sociology of Social Control program before accepting a full-time position at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, where he has been for twenty-seven years. Currently a professor in the sociology department at UMass Boston, his areas of expertise include homelessness and mental health services, research methods, sociology of organizations, and sociology of law.

In addition to his responsibilities at UMass, Dr. Schutt has been involved extensively in research, working with such organizations as Harvard Medical School, The Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Dr. Schutt has written five research books; his latest, Social Neuroscience: Brain, Mind, and Society, was published by Harvard University Press in 2015.  He also has several contributions to textbooks and has had numerous journal articles and book chapters published.

A commitment to engaged sociology
Dr. Schutt also enjoys working with people in community centers on important projects that include homeless shelters, women’s health programs, public health, and mental health issues. These projects have allowed him to meet great people and given him an opportunity to connect in the social world and to help improve communities.

Advice for students of sociology
Russell would advise sociology students to use their college years to enrich their futures. This can be done by immersing oneself in the social sciences and developing important skills, such as writing, critical thinking, and seeing social issues from the perspective of multiple disciplines. Most importantly, Dr. Schutt encourages students to be open to learning throughout their lives; stay engaged by reading, thinking, and interacting with others and never stop learning.

30 in 30 Presents: Jennifer Parsons (Week 23)

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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!

30 in 30 Presents: Bianca Monzon (Week 22)


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Bianca Monzon

BA, Sociology, UIC, 2014

Current work
Bianca landed a job as a data technician at the University of Michigan. She did this by first getting an internship with them as an undergraduate, which led to employment after graduating. Her job consists of scripting, clearing and processing data, programming, and on the job learning. Bianca loves what she does because her job shares research from government institutions with the public so that more people can see and use it. She loves that her work gets to be viewed by others and that it provides a place where researchers and academics can access the open database freely. She also deeply enjoys the people that she works with. Interestingly, her coworkers usually come from sociology backgrounds. The work environment is collaborative, and they often have thoughtful discussion about important issues.

Leveraging work experience in pursuit of graduate school and beyond
Bianca may be able to get funding for her graduate degree, as she is employed by the University of Michigan. She is currently debating pursuing her master’s degree in statistics because it would help her to pursue a career in sociology or policy. She is interested in policy because our political leaders are overwhelmingly white, male and upper class. She says that people of all backgrounds need to be at the table where decisions are being made. Bianca is motivated by an activist she heard who said, “I am no longer accepting the things I can not change. I am changing the things I can not accept.” She believes it is very important for people to unite to make change, rather than to be passive and accept the social injustices that occur daily.

Advice for current sociology students
Bianca urges undergraduates to get involved with internships, programs, and networking during their undergraduate years because all of these help greatly when applying for a job after graduation. She says that many people put limitations on themselves and don’t apply to jobs because many think they are simply not qualified for it. This is why it is important to step out of your comfort zone and to apply to jobs for which one might not feel qualified. She believes anyone with a sociology degree can get a job after graduating as long as they put in the time and effort searching.

What attracted Bianca to sociology
At the beginning of her undergraduate career, Bianca learned that humans’ genetic makeup is 99.9% identical. Learning this was very eye opening for her, because there are so many social inequalities between humans who have such significant biological similarities. Sociology as a field of study has made her more aware of social injustices and how much policy, culture, class and more is interconnected; it gives her a greater awareness of her surroundings. Bianca would highly recommend a sociology major to anyone!

An interesting fact
Bianca is Puerto Rican, but people often think she is white. Her family looks very different from her, and often in public, people react to her and her family very differently, because of their differences in appearance.

For Bianca, success is…
Making an impact, not money. We need more people who care about people rather than superficial values. She intends to pursue this impact in her career and personal life.

Interviewed by Stephanie Munoz

30 in 30 Presents: Imilya Mirza (Week 21)

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Imilya Mirza

BA, Sociology, UIC, 2014
MA, Public Health, DePaul University, in progress

Current job
Imilya works as a Nutrition Operator at Northwestern Hospital. In her role as Nutrition Operator, she works with patients, monitoring dietary intake and restrictions such as allergens. In this position, Imilya uses her sociological skills such as research, making observations and analytical skills. Having a sociology background not only prepared Imilya for the work place but it also prepared her for graduate school. Imilya believes that a sociological background prepares one to work in many different professional careers such as non-for-profit, community outreach and research. Her sociology undergraduate experience also prepared her to do professional research in her current job and in her graduate program in public health.

How sociology led Imilya to public health
In her training as a sociologist, Imilya most enjoyed gathering data. Through sociology, she found an interest in the medical community and social psychology. The ability to explore different subfields in sociology enabled Imilya to see overlap of sociology and health and led her to her career and graduate school pursuits in public health.

Why sociology is a broad, applicable degree
Sociology gave Imilya a platform to study issues that interest her. Imilya’s concentration within sociology is studying society through culture and geography. She appreciates the broadness of sociology and all the transferable skills you gain from your sociological training. For instance, in classes for her public health degree, Imilya has found herself ahead of classmates because of her training in research methods and data analysis once she gathers the research.

The travel bug!
Imilya loves to travel and has been to Washington D.C., California and Australia, and had upcoming plans to go to Europe at the time of our interview. She loves to experience the art, music, museums and food from all of the places to which she travels as well.

Interviewed by Myia Scott