Loyola University Chicago

The Graduate School

Schmitt Fellows


I was raised in a corner of the world where sufferings of our fellowmen were covered by the media everyday. 1980s and 90s in Turkey was a time when we watched in the news every night the stories of people who died in the civil war between the Turkish army and Kurdish fighters, people who lost everything they had when they were forced to leave their villages due to this war, people who lived in bad conditions due to the financial crises in the country, military interventions in politics and its destructive effects, and so on. This was not a bright picture and I came to realize at an early age that it was always the innocent who really suffer, not the actors who inflicted pain on them. This realization led me to get myself involved in understanding the dynamics in the events that produce large numbers of victims. I started with the conflict in Turkey and worked on this issue in my Masters’ education. I traveled to the region and met with people. I was willing to continue working on this issue, but things changed for me after I came to the US for my doctoral education.

Two big things happened. One, I received a very qualified education in many fields of Political Science, including Global Politics and Political Theory. This education broadened
my vision and directed me to focus on global issues from a theoretical perspective. I have learned the power of theory and theoretical thinking and come to realize that many practical problems we have today are actually due to our lack of adequate theoretical formulations. At a moment I was thinking on how I could make use of this realization, the second big thing happened: the European refugee crisis broke out in 2015. Again, another war, other actors; but the innocent suffering, and this time, in millions. I have thought that this should be what I need to be working on, because this was another crisis, this time on a global scale, and another inadequacy in theoretical thinking to overcome its problems. For the last two years, I have been working on the main problems in the Ethics of Forced Displacement and how they could be redressed by an alternative way of thinking. Our world is already globalized, and peoples have been mixing with each other for a long time; but refugee crises have taken this intermixing to an unexpected and unprecedented level. Suddenly, millions of people from different ethnicities, cultures, and religions flowed into the everyday lives of completely different communities. In Turkey, for instance, there are more than 3 million Syrian refugees. In such circumstances, people fear; and their level of tolerance decrease. I witnessed this attitude in Turkey, and the whole world has seen how Europe experienced the same. When it comes to refugees, especially in millions, this issue is not seen as one of diversity, but of invasion. However, this does not have to be so. We need to make more effort in thinking on how this so-called invasion could be utilized for the creation of more diverse and peaceful societies. My initial thought was that we should start thinking from the point of determining our duties toward refugees. Facing millions of refugees all at once is a relatively new phenomenon and our theories are still too weak to show us the way to properly accommodate them and distribute the duties toward them. Hence the importance of theory. By calling attention to the vitality of this issue, and by showing that there is still room for improvement in that sense, I aim to contribute to the creation of peaceful and diverse societies of the future. If we do not start thinking now, our differences will bring only conflict and not richness. I always believe that ideas can change the world.

By starting to work on refugees, I have entered a world that was unknown to me before. I have been reading the theories, cases, histories, and news for the last two years. I am learning a lot, but what I am most excited about is the field research and in-depth interviews I am going to conduct with refugees in the US and Turkey. This will take me to the inner worlds of these people. I see this as a priceless experience because it will enlighten me in how I should shape my thinking when trying to help refugees. Helping others is necessary for social justice, and insofar as I can observe, there are two ways to help victims of forced displacement. One is immediate and practical, which could be either short-term or long-term projects. We fail to give this help properly, but at least there are some things that people are trying to do. The other way of helping is long-term and theoretical, invisible in the short term but necessary for healthy communities in the future. Neither way is more important than the other; but the pressing  immediate needs of refugees lead us to spend more time and effort in the first type of helping. I believe we need more people working in the second way and therefore I have decided to devote my research to that purpose: finding a theoretical model to determine the proper needs of every group of refugees, distributing them justly among various communities, and of course, doing this in an applicable manner. My greatest dream is becoming a leading thinker in this field; and in addition to contributing to theoretical thinking, I hope I can get a position in the future where I can actually and practically help refugees in my society (and hopefully in other societies as well).

It is fun to dream of good things that will happen in the future, but this should not keep me from doing what I need to do today. And the very first thing I must do is finishing
my doctoral education. I am glad I could make it so far and became a PhD candidate, but I am also aware that many people fail to complete their dissertations. I do not want this to be the case for me. In this sense, I believe that the Schmitt Fellowship will be a great support for me to focus on my theory-building, case studies, and putting my results on paper. I will take it as a really great opportunity for me if I can be able to concentrate only on my study and nothing else, because, though being a good experience, teaching and assistantship can be very exhaustive and time consuming for a PhD student like me who is trying to write his dissertation at the same time. Schmitt Fellowship might be the most important push for me that will take me to the professional world, where I can pursue my long-term goals.

Throughout my time as an English graduate student, I have sought out ways to lead. I have been an active mentor for incoming and first- and second-year English graduate students for the past four years and was an English Graduate Student Association board member for two years. I am also a founding member of the Loyola University Chicago Victorian Society (LUCVS), which supports interdisciplinary 19th century scholarship and encourages networking with other local and national 19th century students and faculty. As part of the LUCVS executive board, I’ve organized workshops on CVs and conference abstracts, helped plan our annual day conference, and worked with English 19th century faculty to organize summer and semester reading groups. However, it is through my dissertation research on queer theory and queer methodologies, my examination of the rhetoric that scholars use to talk about LGBTQIA communities and individuals, and my work on the Lili Elbe Digital Archive, that I have found the most opportunities for leadership.

Historically, voices, experiences, and representations of LGBTQIA individuals and groups have been silenced and marginalized. Through my research on my dissertation, I’ve explored questions like how do theories of identity and identity politics impact how we treat our subjects and do our research? How do the identities of our subjects impact how we present them to others? How do our identities impact our research and our subjects? And how can our research help empower and give a voice to the subjects we are studying? The Schmitt Fellowship will give me the opportunity to further address these questions and how they relate to LGBTQIA individuals and communities. The fellowship will also allow me to have the time to work with marginalized groups and individuals and work on creating and implementing queer and feminist pedagogies that not only help encourage and empower marginalized students but also help students and faculty provide a more supportive environment.

My research on queer communities and queer pedagogies and methodologies for my dissertation has helped me become a stronger and more inclusive teacher and ally during my everyday interactions with undergraduates, graduates, and faculty and staff from all communities. My research interests in queer theory and women’s studies and gender studies have also opened up opportunities for leadership through my participation in the Lili Elbe Digital Archive. The Lili Elbe Digital Archive presents the life narratives of Lili Elbe (Lili Elvenes), who is considered by many scholars to be the first historical transsexual, along with letters, newspaper articles, and reviews from Lili herself, Lili’s friends and family, and her contemporaries. As someone specializing in queer theory and gender and sexuality studies, I’ve been able to use my knowledge of queer history and gender ontologies along with theories of gender to help team members work through issues of representation. Working with scholars primarily outside of the fields of feminism and gender studies, I help promote understanding of how identities are produced and conceptualized and how to accurately and respectfully capture them in digital
practices. Through my experience with this process, I co-authored an article for a special issue on feminist digital practices exploring issues of digital representation of identity and gender and how those can (and cannot) be translated in the digital world.

In working on the Lili Elbe project, I’ve also had the opportunity to mentor students and team members from other disciplines about queer and feminist research methodologies and how to work with and on LGBTQIA figures. One of the tensions we encounter as scholars is negotiating the relationship between theory and praxis, especially in fields like queer theory and women’s studies and gender studies. At times, these theories can appear too far removed from our daily lives and the practicalities and real-life experiences individuals face. Part of my role on the Lili Elbe project is to help both students and faculty alike negotiate these different ways of approaching Lili’s narrative and recognize how each approach changes how we view and present Lili and her narrative. If awarded the Schmitt fellowship, I hope to continue promoting queer and feminist research and methodologies on a larger scale. Specifically, I’m interested in working with organizations like EDGE and the Women’s Studies and Gender Studies program and staff and faculty at the library, the University Archives, the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, and the Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy to create and promote workshops addressing questions on and fostering best practices for how to research and represent LGBTQIA figures and communities.

My research and work on this project as well as my own dissertation are motivated by my belief that all identity positions deserve a voice and by my desire to promote visibility and understanding of marginalized identities and subject positions, such as LGBTQIA individuals. Ultimately, I intend to become a university professor, focused on queer and feminist methodologies and pedagogies. The Schmitt Fellowship will allow me to further my skills and experience in these areas and prepare me to be a stronger leader for underserved and marginalized communities.

I work with my feet in two worlds. As a doctoral candidate I study the literature of the New Testament to understand the circumstances and significance of Christianity’s earliest and most formative history. As a priest I serve local congregations and their members to strengthen their faith and equip them for ministry in the world today. The practical realities of parish life constantly inspire my academic pursuits, and my work as a scholar enriches my pastoral ministry. My dissertation, therefore, is grounded in service to both the academy and the church with substantial implications for diversity, leadership, and justice.

The research underlying my dissertation is based on the crucial assumption that the earliest history of Christianity affords more diversity in belief and practice than is often thought. Churches may look to the familiar and enduring Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, for example, to provide essential summaries of Christian faith, but these are only starting points for a faith that matures into devotion and service. The nascent faith of early Christians took shape through various experiences of opposition, ridicule, and skepticism. The authors of the New Testament wrote to address specific challenges and to answer emerging questions about how new believers could live out the gospel in the midst of suffering and suspicion—but their answers were not always the same. The New Testament, that is, reveals multiple patterns of discipleship and diverse ways of being Christian.

The work of my dissertation explores one experience of being Christian represented by the author and audiences of First Peter, a New Testament letter only recently acknowledged as having significance for the history and sociology of early Christianity. The apostle Paul’s letters and the Gospels have long been the standard windows into early Christian experience, but First Peter answers the same widespread questions as Paul and the rest of the New Testament authors: How does my new faith change my life? What effect does it have on my relationships with others? How do I live out my faith and commend it to others? More significantly, First Peter’s answers to these questions are not always identical to Paul’s, and yet they are placed alongside one another in the New Testament as equally valid and authoritative. The New Testament invites us to interpret the ways Peter’s and Paul’s (and others’) visions and experiences complement, supplement, and even seem to contradict one another. Those who believe Scripture to be divinely inspired and binding on faith and practice today cannot favor Peter’s or Paul’s experience to the exclusion of the other’s. In the same way, churches and the academy are bound to appreciate the diversity of experience and perspective in their pews and classrooms as giving voice to the depth and breadth of human experience.

My goal in highlighting the diversity of experience and perspective within early Christianity leads to an important implication for how leaders in both the academy and the church are trained today. Leaders like Peter and Paul answered a wide variety of questions, and many of them are as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago. Questions about the relationship between religion and society, for instance, have not disappeared, and my dissertation speaks to the benefit of listening to ancient answers for illumining contemporary questions. We have also come to ask new questions. As early Christians looked to leaders like Peter, Paul, and others to address their unique circumstances, so the academy and church are in important positions to raise up new leaders who will help answer the questions we ask with compassion, open minds, and an appreciation of diverse experiences and perspectives. My work and service illustrate this as I place First Peter not just alongside or above other literature, but in dialogue with it, and as I communicate the message of the New Testament in parishes and classrooms.

The implications of my dissertation for appreciating diversity and leadership also coalesce to underscore the New Testament’s ubiquitous concern for justice. Christian Scripture assumes that human beings are moral agents capable of changing the world for the better. Early Christian communities were exhorted to embody, in the words of biblical scholar Wayne Meeks, a “moral confidence” in their hope that the world could be transformed (The Origins of Christian Morality, 217). They lived out this hope through active service, caring especially for those marginalized by hegemonic oppression and cultic taboos. In two-thousand years the exhortation has not changed: the New Testament still stands as a witness to the need for action and service on behalf of others, and those who study it diligently are obliged to communicate its vision for justice in the world. My dissertation is an attempt to articulate that vision as embodied in early Christian discipleship as necessary for discipleship today, focusing on First Peter’s attempt to shape its addressees into agents of justice and advocates for the underserved. I hope that this project will contribute to conversations about how Scripture informs contemporary ethics, as well as inspire subsequent work to do the same.

As the work on my dissertation develops, these points have borne fruit in my classroom and among my congregations in academic and pastoral discussion of faith and practice. I assign my students to work in groups throughout the semester in order to learn from one another and incorporate their respective experiences into projects and debates, making the outcome greater than the sum of its parts. Members of congregations I have served in Chicago have benefited from intentional and open conversations about major transitions in the life of their parish. In each case students and parishioners remark that they’ve learned more than they expected to and value the insights they gain from interacting with others. The Schmitt Fellowship experience would help me continue to grow as a leader and scholar, and would afford me the opportunity to interact with scholars from other fields, to appreciate the questions they ask and answer, and to explore how our projects and experiences address common needs present in the world today

Through my academic research, professional path, and personal life, I aim to interrogate the root causes of racial and ethnic inequality in education. As a doctoral candidate at Loyola, I have worked to study school access, student success, and educational equity in Chicago. This work gives me a unique understanding of the leadership required to advance social justice in educational institutions, particularly in the sociohistorical context of racism in the United States. My current doctoral dissertation work on antiblackness and race-making in educational institutions has helped me develop a tenacity to fight for work that matters to underrepresented communities and to advance research agendas that often make stakeholders uncomfortable. 

I am currently an advanced doctoral student in the School of Education. I specifically chose Loyola for graduate study because of the institutional commitment to social justice and the interdisciplinary Cultural and Educational Policy Studies program, which applies sociology, history, philosophy and comparative studies to educational policy and practice. The work of Dr. Kate Phillippo, my current mentor, advisor, and dissertation chair, explores the complexity of identity, student-teacher relationships, and institutional policy. It was Dr. Phillippo’s commitment to engaging meaningfully with student experiences of education policy that brought me to Loyola and supported my own commitment to racial equity in the classroom. I have pursued doctoral study at Loyola with the intention of becoming a faculty member in higher education and to further develop a research agenda that supports antiracist pedagogy and practice in schools.

My course of study focuses primarily on the sociology of race and education. In addition to preliminary coursework in history, philosophy, and comparative and international education, my advanced course plan explored critical social theory, sociology of race and ethnicity, and sociological analysis of urban education and social policy. My comprehensive examinations expanded this course of study, focusing on the history of race in American educational institutions and curricula, the experiences of underrepresented racial groups in American schools, and the psychology of racial bias and interracial interaction. This diverse course of graduate study prepared me to develop a dissertation proposal that examines the complexity of race and schooling in the sociohistorical context of race in the United States.

My IRB-approved dissertation project is a critical collaborative case study that focuses on the intersection of race and teacher-student relationships through day-to-day interactions between students and teachers. I am particularly interested in how teachers’ ideas and beliefs about race perpetuate or mitigate racial equity in the classroom. This study is built on a foundation for qualitative inquiry in education based on the early work of Black scholars to “theorize race and use it as an analytical tool for understanding school inequity” (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995, p. 48). My chosen theoretical framework, BlackCrit (Dumas & Ross, 2016) expands this theorization by centering “antiblackness” in examinations of race, and further, proposing that research on “inequity” must contend with the particularities of antiblackness in the social context. This study interrogates understandings of race in the classroom by focusing on teachers as intermediaries that bridge institutional and interpersonal domains, and examines antiblackness in their work with students. In the context of BlackCrit, a primary goal for this study is to expand our working knowledge of racial inequalities in
education by centering antiblackness in institutional and interpersonal processes.

As indicated by my dissertation research, my professional goals are poised to interrogate the root causes of racial and ethnic inequality in education. My pre-doctoral professional experience in social work, community advocacy, and school-community partnership was guided by this commitment to racial equity. I have experience working in K-12 schools, municipal and community service agencies, writing culturally-relevant curriculum, leading youth classes and groups, and developing citywide standards for youth engagement. In my dual role as a school social worker and after-school program director at Bright Water Montessori, I addressed issues of racial disproportionality within our school and collaborated with racial equity initiatives in the larger community. These experiences led me to pursue doctoral study at Loyola, where I am learning what it means to be an educator and researcher that strategizes across and between stakeholders with differential access to power and avenues for vocalizing their needs.
My identity as a multiracial Black woman informs how I approach my work, is integral to how I see and experience the world, and also fuels my desire to pursue social justice through leadership in education. In my current role as adjunct faculty in sociology at DePaul University and in educational policy studies at Loyola, I work to actively challenge dominant narratives through curricula and pedagogy as part of my commitment to support the engagement of students that are underrepresented in higher education. As an educator, I believe that an integral part of nurturing the teacher-student relationship is the process of actively building a community of scholars. In the community of the classroom, our collective diversity is a fundamental resource in the teaching and learning process. Each semester, I try to serve as a catalyst for this process by centering student identity, experiences, diverse perspectives, and learning needs before we begin to explore the content of our coursework.

As individuals, we reflect on what brought us to this course of study and begin to integrate these differing pathways as a group, exploring our intersectional identities and experiences together. As a Schmitt Fellow, I will continue to advance research and scholarship on racial equity in education. The Schmitt Fellowship will support my ability to continue research that is at the forefront of the field, exploring new ways of understanding how institutionalized racism impacts interpersonal interactions. Additionally, it will give me access to a network of fellows and opportunities to present my research to peers and faculty. I am excited to be part of the radical community of scholars that is emerging at Loyola and I believe our work is supported by the mission of the university, to engage in social justice education for leadership and transformational change.

Dumas, M. J., & Ross, K. M. (2016). “Be real Black for me”: Imagining BlackCrit in education. Urban Education, 51(4), 415-442.
Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. F., IV. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. The Teachers College Record, 97(1), 47-68.

Ever since I was a little girl I have been interested in science, particularly in finding ways to better understand and improve human health. The senior year of my undergraduate studies I took an immunology course and immediately knew this was the bridge I had been looking for between human health and science. I’m proud to say that I found my passion while performing my research at Loyola. During my dissertation work, I found it fulfilling whenever I had the opportunity to act as a mentor and volunteer my time to bring science to my community.

During my studies, a few major events happened in the world regarding immunology. The anti-vaccine (anti-vaxx) movement gained popularity which lead to the spreading of diseases that had once been eradicated in the United States. The Zika virus pandemic also occurred, where many cases resulted in early termination of pregnancies or microcephaly. These two major events were both significant to me because my dissertation research studies the development of the human immune system, namely immunological tolerance in early life. The goal of my research is to better understand why the fetal and neonatal immune systems are less responsive than in adolescents and adults. This is important because it is impossible to administer vaccines in this stage of life due to immune tolerance. Vaccines require the immune system to react to it to build an immunity towards the intended disease; in the tolerogenic environment of a fetus or neonate, there is little to no response to the vaccine. Understanding the cells involved in this tolerogenic mechanism could aid in the development of vaccines that manipulate this mechanism to boost the inflammatory immune response to properly react to the treatment.

The responses by the general public during these times spurred a new sense of importance for me to bring science to the lay public. If people misunderstand our science, such as vaccines, how can they support our work? The public deserves to be exposed to science in an understandable manner. Immunology is a science that is only taught at an undergraduate or graduate school level. Therefore, I seek to communicate immunology in a way that is comprehensible to individuals with diverse educational backgrounds. During my time at Loyola, I co-founded the Women in Science (WINS) group. This group has two major goals for overcoming the gender disparity in science: to inspire, support, and strengthen our members through regular community forums and seminars that provide unique perspectives about female advancement in science; and to care for our community by hosting outreach programs designed to inspire the younger generation to pursue science. Overall, we aim to promote science and leadership to women on our campus and in our community. At least twice a semester WINS members volunteer to the younger generation by hosting interactive science experiments.

These outreach programs are important to us because of two staggering statistics. The first is that 74% of girls show an interest in science until middle school but by high school, only 25% of those girls will pursue science. Something critically shifts during the middle school years where girls lose interest in science. To address this, I help plan and oversee our annual Science Sisters Day for 100 middle school girls each year, where they can come to our campus for free and perform science experiments with our graduate students. These girls come from the surrounding Maywood communities that represent low-income African-American and Hispanic families in which less than 14% of the population holds a college degree. Parents are also welcome to visit during Science Sisters day, where we expose them to science careers that they did not previously know existed. Related to my research, at all of our outreach programs we make sure to introduce the concept of immunology and also discuss vaccinations. We find it crucial to introduce this important field to students at a young age. The second statistic that concerns me is the fact that women and men earn an equal amount of science degrees, however only 22% of tenured faculty in the biological sciences are female and women are less likely to end up working in an occupation related to their field, thus leaving the sciences altogether. This demonstrates that women are less likely to advance and become leaders in science. Through WINS, I am a leader who promotes leadership in the students on my campus and also encourages the younger generation of girls to pursue the sciences. It is especially important that more women from diverse backgrounds pursue the sciences, but many do not have proper resources or exposure to the scientific world; I aim to address that through WINS.

Performing research on the Schmitt fellowship will allow me to continue exposing the public to new science and promoting it to younger generations. It is important in our world where social media is the primary source of information for most individuals, that researchers are able to communicate to the general public about the importance and validity of their work. As an immunological researcher who spends her free time promoting sciences to her community, I will be uniquely trained to bridge the gap between research and the public. I plan to continue doing research in addition to becoming a scientific editor. An editorial position allows me to be exposed to research right before it is published and gain the unique ability to write summary articles that are understandable to the public. By making cutting-edge research accessible to the public and by promoting sciences to our youth, especially girls and those in underserved communities, I hope to improve communication between scientists and the public and advance science by promoting diversity in the field.

My dissertation, “Useful for Life: Chicago Girls and the Making of Vocational Education, 1880-1930,” contributes to diversity by uncovering the educational activism of women who have been overlooked in the historical record. My research focuses on a group of reformers, educators, and child welfare activists who founded some of the first vocational schools and created the earliest vocational guidance programs in Illinois. These women were responsible for new state laws expanding vocational education for girls and played pivotal roles in shaping federal education policy. In sum, I argue that women were central to one of the most important educational movements of the early twentieth century. By highlighting their activism and ideas, my research diversifies how scholars currently understand the history of vocational education.

Furthermore, my research sheds light on the educational experiences of a notoriously neglected group of historical subjects: girls. Children are often ignored by historians due to a lack of surviving sources that tell us about adolescent experiences. But children – particularly girls – are also marginalized in historical writing because scholars assume their perspectives are not important. As discussed in Part D of this application, my research includes an analysis of student newspapers, yearbooks, and juvenile court transcripts to showcase student voices in the history of vocational school reform. My dissertation emphasizes what female students thought about their own vocational schooling, why they pursued some classes over others, and how their educational choices may have impacted school policy. Emphasizing the agency of female students helps diversify how historians traditionally study school reform.

In addition to preparing me for a career as a professional historian who researches and teaches at the university level, my dissertation work develop me as a leader in the field of public history. While writing my dissertation I've applied my research towards independent projects in historic preservation and the digital humanities to reach a wider audience outside my academic field. In 2016, I used my research on girls' vocational education to nominate the former Lucy Flower Technical High School for Girls to the National Register of Historic Places. I plan to secure landmark designations for Chicago's five other progressive-era “technical” high schools so that the history of vocational school reform is preserved in Chicago's landscape.4 Additionally, I built an interactive map that plots all the vocational institutions and programs from my research in a digital project I call “Mapping Vocational Education for Girls, 1879-1930.”5 This project, which continues to grow with my research, allows users to digitally explore an educational landscape that once existed in Chicago dedicated to preparing girls for work both in and outside the home. When completed, I hope this project will be a useful research tool for other historians and a potential teaching aid for Chicago students.

The public history projects made possible by my dissertation research contribute to social justice by ensuring that diverse histories remain visible in Chicago's urban landscape. The network of vocational schools and programs documented in my mapping project demonstrates that women contributed to the built environment of a major metropolis between 1880 and 1930. In other words, my dissertation asserts that women not only shaped vocational education in Chicago schools but left their mark on the city itself.

My preservation work also contributes to a more socially just understanding of the city. Preservationists often lament that the history of working people, women, and immigrants are invisible in the cityscape because structures associated with marginalized groups are not considered “architecturally significant.” Traditional landmarks like gilded-age mansions are beautiful but tell us very little about the majority of Chicagoans who lived and labored in the turn-of-the-century city. In contrast, the public technical schools highlighted in my dissertation are monumental buildings of architectural distinction that also have diverse social histories. Technical public schools were founded due to the activism of women and were populated with the children of Polish, German, Italian, and Russian Jewish immigrants and African American migrants from the rural south. Preserving and interpreting these historic sites will make Chicago's built environment more culturally pluralistic.

Lastly, my research can make vocational education more socially just in our own historical moment by encouraging contemporary reformers to consider not just how we teach but why we teach vocational education. Why educate students for work? The history of girls' vocational education illustrates that why students are schooled for work is culturally complex and linked to a host of social values, concerns, and expectations that exist beyond the classroom. In sum, educational reforms are social movements. Many of Chicago's pioneering vocational reformers believed that cooking and sewing programs would not only help female students find work but benefit society by educating a future generation of responsible mothers. My dissertation shows that their activism, while often good intentioned, limited girls' access to practical job training and cemented expectations for women's economic dependency in the public school curriculum. This history is a reminder to remain critical of the social function of education so that future vocational reforms can better meet a diversity of student needs.

Diversity in a workforce has become essential for an institution’s sustainability and growth. Being a queer female, I contribute to diversity by representing two minorities in STEM. I have been a member of a minority community all my life, facing adversity due to my sexual orientation and being a driven young woman. I learned from a young age to be persistent and creative when facing what seems like an unsolvable task. I bring those attributes to my research and never wanting to admit defeat until all possible solutions have been tested. Having never seen someone “like me” in a position of leadership in a lab, I am now that person to the next generation of students. I further diversity in STEM through training of undergraduates in our lab. I have had several undergraduates of different minority groups aid in all my research projects. I strive to ensure they are trained not only to perform methods and interpret data, but also to encourage them to understand the deeper purpose of the work. I have helped our senior-level undergraduates in training new students to foster leadership in our lab. One of the best ways to ensure students understand concepts is to have students teach them. I utilize my own lab experience to demonstrate how to adapt instructions based on a student’s education. Several of the alumni of my lab have gone on to work for chemical companies, forensic labs, and attended graduate school.

Today’s society is vastly interconnected; in the global community, every action has a consequence. The generation of plastic pollution will have unforeseen consequences on our communities for decades to come. Many of the communities that will be harmed by the effects of plastic pollution are categorically poor and home to regional minorities. These groups will be adversely impacted because they lack the resources to move and the knowledge to remediate the plastic crisis. I was unaware of the full-scale impact that plastic pollution has on our environment when I began my doctoral studies. The knowledge gained during my research will not allow me to be a bystander in this global issue. I am hoping to aid the fight against plastic pollution by investigating the impact plastic has on two environments that currently are understudied. My research is investigating how life at the bottom of the food chain in fresh waters and in soil can be impacted by the ingestion of plastic pollution. The impact can be traced through the food chain to humans once known. Humans have already been shown to ingest plastics through drinking water. No global inhabitant will be unaffected by plastic pollution ingestion. We must know how the ingestion of plastic effects all levels of life to confront this facet of the plastic pollution crisis.

Plastic may have limited benefits for the environment if utilized in the right way. My research in plastic pollution is also looking at what chemicals adhere to plastic debris in
freshwaters such as rivers and lakes. Plastics can adhere compounds with low water solubility preferentially over those with large water solubility. Many pollutants and toxins in freshwater environments have low water solubility. This means that a controlled deployment of plastics could aid in the clean-up of contaminated freshwaters from a toxin dump or spill. The global supply of clean drinking water is shrinking each year. If we can develop a way to clean those freshwater sources that have been contaminated, the deficit could be reduced. The plastics could adsorb the toxins in those sources while leaving the nutrients that the ecosystem requires to thrive. One of the benefits of using plastic to remediate a toxin spill is that the toxins can be removed from the plastic, allowing it to be reused for several collection cycles before being recycled. Plastic isn’t going to disappear overnight; we need to find a way to use it to help ourselves rather than allow it to keep harming our environments and ultimately our lives.

I have mentored and worked with undergraduate science majors since my first full year as a graduate student. Mentoring students in lab while conducting research on my own projects has helped expand my leadership abilities immensely. I have had the ability to foster growth and development in a research setting with several alumni of our lab, as students typically work for me for several years. I would like to take my final year of graduate school to continue to enhance those abilities. I have learned how to expand students’ understandings of concepts that have not been taught in lecture and of methods that are not covered in a traditional laboratory setting. The opportunity to guide my students through the full length of the research process, from conception to publication, would be invaluable to my leadership skills. I would also like to continue improving on the ability to communicate my research concepts and results clearly with others, regardless of their scientific background. The additional year of research and study, along with my publication plans, would allow me to continue to develop this skill set as I would be exposed to an even greater audience of my work through attending numerous regional conferences in related disciplines. I look forward to networking with my Schmitt fellows to develop the skills required to communicate with those outside of my field during my final year of research, as they provide an association of people with similar goals but varying backgrounds.

When I was little, I loved puzzles. My approach was always the same. I would lay out all of the pieces of the puzzle, isolate the corners, and organize the remaining pieces into categories that seemed fitting for the particular layout, such as color. Sometimes I would get stuck and begrudgingly ask my dad for help. He would calmly remind me that I had all the pieces I needed –the answer was right in front of me, I just had to find it. My motivation to pursue a graduate degree in biomedical research is due to my curiosity about the way things work and my drive to explore novel areas of science, ultimately to better the lives of individuals. I cannot say I always knew I wanted to be a scientist. In fact, I wanted to be a mathematician. I excelled at math from a young age. Reading was always hard for me but numbers were simple. In math, there is always a right answer, you just have to figure out how to solve for it. I entered college as a math major with a focus on statistics, but during the course of my sophomore year I switched my major to chemistry. While my classmates struggled in organic chemistry, to me it was so simple. If you follow the movement of electrons, you will end up at the solution. Chemistry intrigued me, because it was more than solving a formula on paper. It involved analytical thinking that translated into laboratory work.
Following graduation, I applied for positions in biomedical research. I obtained a job at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital working as a research assistant in the Infectious Disease department. I worked on a number of clinical trials and got to interact with patients. During my time at St. Jude, I felt the tangible impact that our studies had on the lives of adolescents living with HIV. This feeling awakened my desire to improve the lives of others through research and led me to apply to graduate school at Loyola University Chicago. I was still weighing my options about graduate schools when I set out to Arusha, Tanzania to volunteer at the Infectious Disease ward at a local clinic. I have always felt a call to serve and had been on a number of service trips to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and within the United States, all of which involved building houses are drainage systems for people in need. My work in Arusha was different. I experienced first-hand how some people have to live without the medical care we can get here. Patients came in with infectious diseases (such as HIV, malaria, and TB) that are readily treatable or easily preventable in the United States, yet a significant problem in Africa
because of a lack of drug availability. This experience solidified my decision to pursue a graduate degree in biomedical research.
My doctoral research focuses on developing a novel tool to study inflammation. Inflammation underlies the pathology of many diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases, cardiac diseases, cancer, autoimmune disorders, intestinal disorders and numerous infections. Despite the prevailing role inflammation plays in numerous disease settings, there are limited techniques for studying this process. We developed a system where we can study inflammation in living animals in real time. The system we implemented utilizes mice that express a protein that lights up during inflammation, allowing us to visualize where the inflammation is occurring and quantify how much inflammation is occurring in these animals. We can monitor the change in light over time, allowing us to better understand the dynamics of inflammation during the course of infection or disease progression. We are currently validating this system in the context of different inflammatory diseases, in the hopes that this tool will aid in the development of novel therapeutic strategies to boost or inhibit inflammation and potentially save someone’s life.
My work at Loyola has strengthened my passion for research as a calling for helping others. After completing my PhD, I wish to pursue a postdoctoral position in biomedical research. I believe that science is an ever-changing field. Loyola has molded me into a well-rounded scientist, a trait that will make me wellprepared for a career in infectious disease research. I hope to build on this as a postdoctoral fellow and to continue developing my technical skills and professional development. Ultimately, I hope to obtain a position as an independent investigator, specializing in infectious disease outbreaks. I hope to find a position where I can combine my passions for research, teaching, and service by pursuing a principal investigator position, where I can run my own lab and serve the scientific community by teaching a new generation of scientists. I also hope that my career takes me back to Africa, where I can work directly with the emerging infectious diseases that plague people in third world countries who lack the adequate health care to combat these infections. I hope that the Schmitt fellowship can help me attain these future goals.
To me, science is like a puzzle –a very complicated and often confusing puzzle. We often find that our seemingly valid hypothesis do not work out, while sometimes our mistakes actually lead to discoveries. Every discovery solves a piece of the puzzle. We may not have all the pieces together yet, but I find solace in remembering that the answer is right in front of us, we just have to figure out how to find it.