30 in 30 Presents: Eman Aly (Week 12)

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Eman Aly

BA, Sociology, UIC, 2001
MA, Social Work, UIC, 2009
MA, Master of Divinity in Islamic Studies, American Islamic College, expected 2017

Current job
Health Communications Manager at National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago

How Eman found sociology
Eman studied business and education before finding sociology through the Social Problems course in the department. Professor Steve Warner taught the class, and his instruction and guidance inspired her to take more classes and eventually to major in sociology. Combined with her passion for youth, Eman’s background in sociology prepared her to successfully complete a Master’s in social work.

Sociology: Bridging the personal and the public
Sociology is personally relevant for Emam, with regard to the political climate and immigration policies affecting the Muslim community in the United States. Eman believes that sociology offers an ecological model for examining society and the groups that comprise it at a macro level. This is particularly helpful for her, as she is deeply involved in grassroots efforts in the Muslim community here in the Chicago area, while understanding the connections between the experiences of the local community and the issues facing that community nationally.

Using her sociology degree at NORC
She says her sociology degree was a platform for her career in communications, marketing, and as a digital strategist. At NORC, Eman conducts social research, using media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, which provide rich data about human behavior. As the Health Communications Manager, her work ranges from digital marketing research, to presenting findings and consulting, so each day is different!

A range of careers
Eman has leveraged sociology to connect social media, the Muslim community, and health, and she believes that students of sociology are being prepared for a range of careers, including human resources, project management, public health, and non-masters level social work. Eman’s example demonstrates the adaptability of a BA in sociology.

Fun facts about Eman
• Eman just read and enjoyed Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes…she would recommend it!
• She has also recently learned to knit and make soap. She says she applies her research skills to hobbies, learning all she can about them.
• Eman also spoke at the Women’s March in Chicago in 2017. Check out her speech here.

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Eman Aly at the Women’s March. Photo credit: Eman Aly

Interviewed by Myia Scott


30 in 30 Presents: Rosemarie Dominguez (Week 11)

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Rosemarie Dominguez

BA, Sociology, Applied Psychology, and Latin American & Latino Studies, UIC, 2015
MA, Latino American & Latino Studies, UIC, Expected 2018

Current job
Rosemarie is currently working on her Master’s degree in Latino American and Latino Studies (LALS) and works as a Teaching Assistant while working on her degree.

How sociology chose Rosemarie
She says that being a brown-skinned Latina from Little Village, she feels that sociology really chose her. It was a great complement to her knowledge of and involvement with grass-roots and community organizing. Sociology helps students to develop critical consciousness and helps them to become revolutionaries as they learn more about social stratification, class and racial injustice, and more through a sociological lens.

Advocating for her own success
While she was challenged by some, and witnessed other students of color being challenged for their ambitious goals to double or triple major, Rosemarie found great support at UIC from others. Her academic advisor in LALS, Juanita del Toro, encouraged her to take on the challenge of completing three majors, which she did successfully. This experience taught Rosemarie that students should advocate for themselves, as well as seek out mentors who believe in their abilities.

Using sociology beyond the classroom
In addition to pursuing her Master’s degree and working as a TA, Rosemarie is a Community Assistant for La Casa Student Housing, an initiative of the Resurrection Project. She also serves as a mentor for first generation students who are pursuing their bachelor’s degree.

Fun facts
While Rosemarie loves to support students, volunteer in her community and stay, she also loves a good nap. She also cherishes time spent with family, which is incredibly important to her as a LatinX woman, because family is “everything” in Mexican culture.

Interviewed by Luis Duran

30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Angela Mascarenas (Week 10)

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Dr. Angela Mascarenas

BA, Social Psychology, University of the Philippines, 1983
MA, Sociology, UIC, 1987
PhD, Sociology, UIC, 2010

Current work
Dr. Mascarenas works in New York using her analytics background (she worked in Chicago as an accounts analyst for an investment firm in Chicago for 12 years). She is currently consulting for a leading Swiss chocolatier. She is also excited to be facilitating a theater workshop for 1199SEIU (Service Employees International Union) summer camp as a way to engage and develop critical thinking among minority children ages 8-12 years old. She will be adapting a curriculum that she developed in her work at CIRCA Pintig.

Other related work
Angela is the Co-Executive director of the community theater organization, CIRCA Pintig, established over 25 years ago. The organization uses the arts as a way to address social problems. Dr. Mascarenas manages operations, solicits grant support, helps with workshops, and participates in the creation of performances. Performances also include “talkbacks” afterward that engage the audience in the issues that the performances address. She loves her job because it helps her to bring her academic knowledge and the world together.

The strength of sociology
Dr. Mascarenas appreciates the complementarity of anthropology, psychology, and sociology, but she was drawn to sociology for graduate school because the discipline focuses on the structure of society as well as groups’ beliefs and cultures. She says that sociology is uniquely intersectional as a discipline. Students of sociology learn qualitative and quantitative methods that are useful for analyzing relevant social problems, and the subject helps students to learn to think critically instead of taking things at face value.

Advice for students and UIC Sociology
To best serve students, Angela suggests that the department work to introduce as many students and alumni to one another as possible, so that students can appreciate the range of careers sociology prepares students to succeed in after graduating. She says this will also help students to access networks and possibly gain hands-on experience.

Interviewed by Luis Duran and Kirsten Andersen

30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Barbara Downs (Week 9)

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Dr. Barbara Downs

PhD, Sociology, University of Michigan, 1998
BA, Sociology, UIC, 1992

Current job
Director of the Federal Statistical Research Data Center program at the Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau. She began working at the Census Bureau as an Analyst, working on surveys on fertility in the Family branch of the Bureau.

How sociology prepared her for working at the Census Bureau
Barbara says that sociology prepared her for her work by teaching her survey methodologies and how to analyze data. She uses what she learned to create and administer surveys in her work. Broadly, she says that sociology gave her the technical skills to examine the world. Dr. Downs says sociology also helps her in everyday interactions and when gauging sources like the news, asking how information was gathered and processed.

Do you need a PhD to work at the Census Bureau?
Barbara says the census bureau also employs those with bachelor’s degrees, just starting at a lower analyst job code than PhDs. If you liked statistics and surveys as a sociology major, you might enjoy working at the Census Bureau!

Advice for students of Sociology
Seek feedback from faculty and keep practicing at the things you think you’re not good at, until you are!

A favorite memory of her time in school
Dr. Downs once had a professor who made students write and re-write the same essay over and over until it was perfected. She learned about editing, continuing to practice your skills, and how to take feedback from mentors.

Interview by: Halimah Salah

30 in 30 Presents: Dr. Sarah Spell (Week 8)

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Dr. Sarah Spell

PhD, Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, 2016
BA, Sociology & Psychology, UIC, 2007

Addressing inequality through research
Sarah’s dissertation examined the ways in which college hookups are racialized and unequal. While she says that often people focus on the “hook-up” aspect of her dissertation topic, she wants to emphasize the inequality revealed in the findings of who hooks up with whom and why. Through her research, Dr. Spell found that the ability to hook up in college was a privilege available to some more than others, revealing that racism and racial inequality are prevalent not only in formal spaces, but also in informal college settings, like sexual and romantic relationships.

Sarah continues her research on inequality in her current job
Dr. Spell is a Senior Research Associate at Pew Charitable Trusts. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania last year, Sarah decided that she wanted a position that would allow her to continue to impact inequality. Her work at Pew Charitable Trusts allows her to do policy research related to fighting old age income insecurity through state level retirement savings policy that results in reports read by a large audience of academics and lay people alike.

Finding sociology at UIC
Sarah’s parents did not attend college, so they did not have the personal experience to help her to navigate college. She attributes her early success at UIC to the wonderful resources she found in the Sociology department. In particular, the guidance of Dr. Shawn Neidorf (a PhD alumna of UIC Sociology), her TA in Sociology 100, was tremendously impactful. Shawn helped Sarah not only as a TA but personally connected her to Dr. Maria Krysan, under whom she worked for the Chicago Area Study (CAS) for two years as an undergraduate. Because of their influence, Sarah says that she was able to have many informative experiences that later made her very competitive when applying for graduate school. For instance, she got an internship with Joint Program of Survey Methodology, through which she learned much about survey methods and statistics.

Advice for students and recent graduates
If she has any regrets about her time at UIC, Sarah says, they are only that she wishes she had followed even more of the advice offered by her mentors. She also says she wishes that she had taken more classes outside the department while at UIC, in topics like economics.

Lasting lessons in impacting inequality
For Sarah, the time Shawn Neidorf and Maria Krysan spent with her taught her that if someone asks for help, you should help them! Part of our job is to be of service to others, she says. She also points out that this experience comes full circle for her, because mentoring is a wonderful, personal way to address inequality—not coincidentally relating to her overarching research goal.

Fun fact
Dr. Spell started doing improv comedy about a year ago. She says that it’s a fabulous way to hone her presentation skills…no matter what topic arises!

Interviewed by Halimah Salah and Kirsten Andersen

30 in 30 Presents: Nakisha Hobbs (Week 7)

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Nakisha Hobbs

BA, Sociology & African American Studies, UIC, 2001

Current job
Nakisha is the current Co-Founder and Principal of the Village Leadership Academy (VLA) which is an independent K-8 school. In addition, she is also the founder of It Takes A Village Early Learning Centers, which serves approximately five-hundred students 0-5 years of age. On top of Nakisha’s many responsibilities, she is also involved with childcare advocacy through state-wide commissions and committees that work to influence public policy.

How Nakisha realized the need for the Village Leadership Academy
Prior to establishing the Village Leadership Academy and It Takes A Village Early Learning Centers, Ms. Hobbs initiated a Saturday school tutoring program that helped students in remediation and eventually led to the opening of her preschools in order to help children earlier in their education. However, after students graduated the program, parents continued to bring their children back, because other schools were not serving their children as well. As a result, Nakisha and her co-founder, Anita Andrews-Hutchinson, founded the Village Leadership Academy to educate low-income students of color, guided by a social justice philosophy.

Bringing her sociological and African American studies knowledge to Chicago
Nakisha’s interest in inequities in education grew during college, especially while working closely with Amanda Lewis, who has an extensive background in sociology and education. Nakisha originally intended to pursue a PhD in Sociology, but found that simply theorizing was not enough to make an impact on the educational system, so she sought to use the skills that sociology taught her to solve problems. For the founding of and continued work at VLA, Nakisha found her education invaluable. Some of the skills she learned at UIC and still uses daily include critical thinking, employing perspective, and addressing root causes to systematic issues. Alongside her sociological background, her major in African American studies gave her a historical perspective on current inequities in education.

Why everyone should think like a sociologist
Ms. Hobbs encourages everyone to think like a sociologist because she says they are the best critical thinkers and problem solvers. In addition, she feels that sociology has taught her to create more meaningful relationships and perspectives.

A favorite memory of UIC
One fond memory that Nakisha has of UIC is participating in the Changing Terrain in Race and Ethnicity Conference that was spearheaded by Amanda Lewis and Maria Krysan, and which gave her exposure to cutting edge work among respected sociologists.

Fun fact!
She is an avid yelper because she thinks Chicago food is the best food. She says her love of Chicago’s food is balanced by her commitment to walking 10,000 steps (5 miles!) a day!

Interview by: Jocelyn Diaz

30 in 30 Presents: Ira Wrestler (Week 6)

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Ira Wrestler

MA, Sports Management, University of Tennessee
BA, Sociology, UIC 2007

Current job
Ira is the Coordinator of Facilities and Student Development at the UIC Recreation Center on the West Campus. His job in campus recreation involves a variety of tasks including supervising fifty student workers at any given time as well as hiring, scheduling, and mentoring students. Ira’s primary goal is to provide outstanding service to the diverse clientele that comes into the facility to exercise and relax by ensuring a safe, clean and welcoming environment.

That “aha!” moment at UIC Sociology
Ira had many “aha!” moments in his sociology classes where he learned to be open to different perspectives and ideas. Ira’s experience in the sociology department at UIC broadened his awareness and appreciation for diverse populations, which is relevant for his work with various groups of people that come in and out of the recreational facility. Some of the main skills that he learned in his sociology courses and uses on a daily basis are the ability to effectively communicate, plan, and problem solve.

Ira’s route from UIC Sociology to UIC Recreation
Ira reached out to Brian Cousins, who became his mentor, and is the current director of UIC Campus recreation. He took Ira under his wing, and explained to him how he got to where he was in his career. With Brian’s guidance, Ira became very active in the national organization for campus recreation, NIRSA, and went to the national conference as well. Shortly after the conference he received a graduate assistantship at the University of Tennessee on a two-year program. While he was studying, he was also working for their recreational facility under their aquatics department. He eventually returned to Chicago to work for Lifetime Fitness, which helped him to successfully apply for his job at the UIC Recreation Facility as a professional.

Fun fact
Ira has visited 5 of the 7 continents! He initially began his “world tour” with UIC Explorers Alumni Travel Program, and only needs to visit Antarctica and Asia to complete all seven!

Interviewed by Jocelyn Diaz