SOC senior wins President’s Medallion
Interview by Genevieve Buthod
This year’s SOC winner of Loyola’s President’s Medallion is Adele Gedig, a senior majoring in Advocacy and Social Change and minoring in Environmental Communication. She sees fighting for environmental justice as an important way she can make the world a better place with her degree from Loyola University Chicago. The President’s Medallion is one of the most prestigious awards conferred by Loyola, given to students who best exemplify a combination of outstanding scholarship, leadership, and service. Adele sees that listening to those you are serving is one of the most important aspects of service, and incorporates that philosophy into her studies and volunteer work.
How did you feel when you learned you were this year’s President’s Medallion winner?
It was a complete surprise, it lifted my whole heart. I’m applying to grad school right now and it really boosted my confidence. It’s been really difficult lately. Being back in person has been rough. I’ve been very busy. Everything has been weighing me down and stressing me out. This very good news was a bright and shining star in my life. In fact, “very good news” is a big understatement.
Can you tell me more about your life on campus?
I’m an RA in Mertz Hall, I’ve been an RA every year except for last year because of COVID-19. That’s a big part of my life, being an RA. I also have two other jobs on campus. I’m an office assistant in the mathematics department and I also work as a Gentile Arena game day ticketing staff member.
Something I love about all of my jobs is I’m able to get to know a lot of people. I’m meeting math professors and grad students. It’s really interesting to get to know different parts of Loyola. Of course, with Gentile Arena, being able to go to all the games is really cool. I like being able to see all the different worlds in Loyola.
A big part of the President’s Medallion Award is related to service. Can you tell me about your service while at Loyola?
I’m currently volunteering with Girl Forward, which is an organization right near Lakeshore Campus that works with girls who are refugees, as well as their families. At my time at Loyola I’ve done a little bit of everything. I was a member of Loyola for Chicago for a while, I tutored elementary students at Chicago Public Schools (CPS). I also tutored CPS high school juniors for the SAT, right before the pandemic shut everything down.
Can you tell me more about Girl Forward?
With Girl Forward, the communications director actually graduated four years ago from the Advocacy and Social Change program. Her name is Emily Ramstetter.
I’m volunteering there through my Gender and Communication class. It’s an engaged learning class, but because of the pandemic, it’s a little different now than it was in the past. This year we’re only working with one organization, rather than many, but we’re all working with Girl Forward in different capacities. Some students are doing tutoring. Some are helping with day to day operations at the center, including managing donations. This upcoming Saturday they’re having a block party which I’m going to help with. The party is meant to help people learn about the organization and the resources they provide.
Does any of your service give back to the university or the School of Communication?
I’ve done quite a bit of service for the School of Communication. I’ve volunteered for the Admission Open Houses two times already and I’m doing it a third time. I’m also on a student advisory board, led by Dr. Elizabeth Lozano, for both the Communications Studies major and the Advocacy and Social Change major. It’s something that’s really important to me. I love the School of Communication community. There’s some wonderful things about this school that I feel so blessed to be a part of, and I just want to give back. I see these roles as an honor and a privilege.
What kind of work do you do while serving on the student advisory board?
On the board, we discuss improvements for the program. All of us are students in one of the two programs. We talk about our experience. Dr. Lozano looks for feedback on things like curriculum revisions. She wants to know our experience in our classes, if we feel equipped to enter the field. It’s really exciting because it’s looking at the future of the program. Looking at what we do well, what’s special about our particular programs. We’re trying to get the word out not just at Loyola but outside of it as well.
You mentioned how busy you’ve been applying for graduate school. What area of study do you hope to pursue?
I’m applying for grad school programs in environmental management and environmental justice. I signed up for the minor (at the SOC) right away. I’m drawn to environmental issues. The core requirement for LUC students who aren’t science majors is that we have to take a science course, and I took the environmental science course. I was so intrigued by the topics that had to do with human rights. I learned that environmental issues disproportionately affect people who are already oppressed. The immense injustice of that is what got me interested. This minor appealed to me because I’m not a science person, but I’m very interested in environmental justice. Communication is super interdisciplinary. I’m in my third environmental science class through the School of Environmental Sustainability (SES). I took classes on persuasive presentations, and right now I’m taking a class on environmental journalism. Thinking about the justice issues that have to do with it, and how we communicate about that, is so interesting and I think a lot about how I fit into this puzzle, and how I can help. I just think it’s an amazing thing that the SOC is connecting with SES.
Where are you applying for environmental justice programs at the graduate level?
I’m applying at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Dr. Urooj Raja actually did her PhD there and so I love being able to talk to her about it. I’m also applying to the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, a school in Monterey California called Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and also Yale School of the Environment. They have a specialization in people, equity, and the environment. There’s a lot of environmental science programs out there, but the interdisciplinary part is harder to find, so that’s why I’m only applying to four schools.
Once you graduate from your future environmental justice program, what do you hope to do with your degree?
I see myself working with some kind of organization that works with people. I like working with communities. I think sometimes organizations overlook the fact that the people are what matter. I want to see what people need and offer help. Communities themselves know the best what they need, better than any advocate who wants to help. That’s something I learned from my professors, Dr. Lozano, Dr. (George) Villanueva, Dr. (Julia) DeCook. It’s humbling. It’s not just about how you do social justice work, but how you go about it in a way that’s not perpetuating injustice. When you’re doing social justice work, you have to take the right steps to ask questions. You have to learn how to break that savior complex.