Loyola University Chicago

Women's Studies and Gender Studies

Jake Giles

Jake Giles (he/him/his)

Graduation Year: 2010

Program/Degree: B.A. Double Major in Journalism & Women’s and Gender Studies

Current Job/Position: Senior Project Manager of Technology at the Trevor Project

Where have you found yourself and what career goals have you pursued since graduating from Loyola? Where do you see yourself heading in the next several years?

     Currently, I am a Senior Project Manager for the Technology team at The Trevor Project, which is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. In many ways, it’s the most rewarding position I’ve had and a culmination of my personal and professional experiences from the past 10 years. My work seamlessly combines my passion for LGBTQ identity and equality, while leveraging the skills I’ve acquired in the tech industry.  I’m in the midst of my first year and excited for many more!

How did the Women’s and Gender Studies (WSGS) program impact your career success and life overall?

     In terms of my career, my WSGS degree was actually the seed that allowed my entire career to blossom. I got my first job out of college with a healthcare startup in Chicago. The company wanted someone sensitive to gender and LGBTQ communities in a hybrid customer service-sexual health counselor role. I was promoted to other roles within the company, eventually becoming a Product Manager. Generally, the education I received from Loyola’s WSGS curriculum shaped my perception of gender as a construct, how our many identities intersect, and the impact misunderstandings around sex and gender have across the world. These attributes have proven to be essential life skills.

What was your favorite course/project you took part in whilst being a part of the WSGS program?

     I enjoyed so many, but two really stand out. The first was Women In Religion. As an atheist at a Catholic institution, I was hesitant about the religious components of both the course work, and the campus culture. I found myself craving to hear alternative perspectives and stories that weren’t centered around white heterosexual men. Women In Religion emphasized the important role women had in shaping theological discourse, and offered students a chance to appreciate their often overlooked experiences.

     Another favorite was the Queer Theory course. My classmates and I were the first to take it, and I was so excited to attend class each week. Our professor taught us about marginalized communities and celebrated them, never dwelling too heavily on the struggles, but using those struggles to illustrate how fighting for our rights to exist as our true selves changes the world.

Do you have any fond memories of your experience within the program? If so, please elaborate.

     There’s a kindred, like-mindedness that permeates through WSGS students. I believe many people have a passive interest in gender and how it influences our daily lives, but the people who dig in deeper to learn about the people leading these movements and the issues at their forefront are people who want to change the world. It was inspiring. I took all of my courses with a close friend, Alysse Dalessandro, who I’ve watched thrive as visible member of the queer community. Knowing we both had the same education makes me thrilled to watch her succeed in part because of it.

Do you feel as though your WSGS degree has guided you towards a more fulfilling career path?

     Absolutely. As I previously mentioned, my WSGS degree is what got me noticed by the employer that would eventually give me my first job after graduating Loyola in 2010. Now, in my role at The Trevor Project, I have a baseline knowledge of LGBTQ history and identity that reminds me how important visibility and recognition is.

In what ways has your WSGS education helped prepare you to be a more engaged global citizen and local neighbor?

     Learning about gender as a construct means you also have to deconstruct so much of what you learned up to that point of your life. Especially during the years I was studying, the world hadn’t evolved nearly enough. The idea that both individuals as well as organizations and businesses would invest the proper amount of time into promoting pronoun sharing, or that the trans liberation movement would be more openly discussed and accepted seemed so far off. I’m overjoyed to see younger people have these touchpoints as a foundation to build upon. There is so much work left to do, but I’m more hopeful than I was in 2010.

What advice would you offer to current or prospective WSGS students?

A few things! Speaking directly to those students:

  1. Network network network. I know, you’re told that by every corner of your college experience but invest the time to build your relationships, whether that be with your classmates or professors. These are the people who will uplift and make sure your talents are properly recognized. Start thinking of careers and companies that will celebrate the education you receive, or even better, help you utilize it to become successful in your vertical.                             
  2. Appreciate your nerdiness. I can barely remember a single thing I learned in chemistry, but I remember so much of my WSGS education. That’s because I had a personal interest in it; these weren’t courses I was forced to take to check off a few boxes, these were topics I was craving to learn about. WSGS courses are human-centric and illustrate an interest in understanding the world around us. This creates an empathetic lens to interact with others, which I believe is a crucial life skill.
  3. Enjoy the journey. You’re not going to learn everything there is to know in one semester, so consider your current or future studies as the foundation. I love when I run into something I learned in my WSGS coursework in the wild. It’s validating and exciting. You’ll read books, see films, hear music that will all be better because of what you’ve learned. Celebrate that piece when you notice it.