Loyola University Chicago

The President’s Medallion

Gwendolyn Y. Purifoye

Gwendolyn Y. Purifoye

Gwendolyn Purifoye’s research looks at how race plays itself out every day on Chicago’s mass transit system. Her teaching examines how and why race, class, and gendered “incivilities” occur, and how they are turned into “civilities” based on mutual understanding.  

In addition to her studies and research, Purifoye is active in her church and has organized and taught community courses in several states to ensure young people’s success in school.

Here, she talks about her “rock” at Loyola, the importance of education, and why the Information Commons is her home away from home. 

What’s your favorite Loyola memory?

I don’t want to sound hokey, but my favorite memory has been receiving the President’s Medallion. The experiences that have accompanied this honor have been wonderful. The medallion is also a reflection of my guiding principle—God first, others second, and myself last—and all the skills and knowledge that I have gained as a Loyola student.

Talk a little about a professor or mentor who inspired you.

Dr. Kelly Moore, my mentor and dissertation chairperson, has been my rock at Loyola. She has spent countless hours teaching me how to navigate my doctoral program while also preparing me for an academic career. I know I would not have developed as a scholar without her encouragement and guidance. I am blessed and grateful to have had strong family, church, and academic support.   

Tell us about your volunteer/service work and what it means to you. 

Education is the focus of most of my service work. Education is empowering, but it can also be used to restrict social mobility, to disenfranchise, and to reproduce various levels of stratification and inequalities. Most of the work I do involves sharing tools for educational success with families to help reduce the effects of systems of inequality that often play out through education. 

Any advice you would give students about how to get the most out of their education?

Every experience is part of your education. Learn how to be an active and independent thinker inside and outside of the classroom. Take the onus for your successes. Actively participate in your education and in everything Loyola has to offer, and you will lead a truly extraordinary life of purpose, growth, and exceptional character and accomplishments.

What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now? 

It might take me 10 years to recover from the PhD program!  Once I have regained my wits, I hope to see that I have successfully earned tenure.  I plan to continually engage in research projects that empower the communities I study. I hope my work shapes policies while also promoting community investment through civic engagement and civil interactions. 

What’s your favorite study space on campus? 

On any given day, when people are looking for me they know to go to the third floor of the Information Commons.  If I am not there and in my usual spot, I usually receive a text asking me about my whereabouts. The space is quiet and spacious, and the lake view is peaceful and gorgeous.

What will you miss most about Loyola? 

Everything—and that’s an honest answer. I received all my degrees from Loyola; this wasn’t an expected path, but it was perfect for me.  I’ll miss the numerous staff members who educated me on service and who worked hard for me behind the scenes. I’ll also miss the faculty who encouraged me along the way. Mostly, I will miss the gorgeous place that has been my on- and off-again home since age 18.