archive of student Highlights

All current and former political science student highlights can be viewed below.

  • Student Highlight: Christopher Kooy

    by Stephanie Whitaker | Apr 04, 2016

    Christopher Kooy
    – Expected Graduation: May 2018

    A sophomore majoring in both Spanish and Political Science, Christopher Kooy hails from the small town of Dixon, Illinois—hometown of President Ronald Reagan.

    As a high school student, Chris became more passionate about history, law, linguistics, diplomacy and politics whenever he sat down with his mother and grandfather, who would enchant him with stories of their time coming from the impoverished highlands of Perú to work as government lawyers in the capitol of Lima, or of how they had to flee the country when Sendero Luminoso began threatening government workers and waging war with the Peruvian government.

    This led Chris to apply to the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It wasn’t really that I immediately chose UIC, so much as UIC took the time and effort and sought out minority students from underrepresented counties in Illinois and had enough courage to believe in me.  They also offered me a financial award that allowed me to receive a college education in the first place,” says Chris. “This, to me, is what UIC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is all about.”

    Studying politics and Spanish in such a culturally rich, vibrant, and intellectual city as Chicago was a dream come true for Chris. He was intent on immediately making an impact on his new community and giving back for all that he counted himself thankful for.

    At the start of his undergraduate career, Chris immediately joined UIC University Ambassadors and began volunteering with Illinois JusticeCorps (a branch of AmeriCorps) at the Daley Center courthouse downtown. Through University Ambassadors, Chris was able to develop professionally while increasing campus pride at UIC and working to recruit students to go to Springfield for the annual Lobby Day, where students speak to their state legislators about the importance of funding for higher education. With JusticeCorps, Chris was able to use his native Spanish language skills to assist hundreds of pro-se litigants properly file legal documents and maneuver through the courthouse with less fear and intimidation.

    As the president of the UIC Pre-Law Society, this year Chris and his team have been working hard to reach out to more pre-law students with opportunities for learning about the LSAT and the law school application process through things like an LSAT strategy session with Blueprint LSAT Prep and a UIC Alumni in Law School Q&A Panel. Chris was also a volunteer tax return preparer this year with the Center for Economic Progress, helping to file federal and state tax returns for low-income families in Chicago.

    In his free time, Chris likes reading books about political history, theology, and economic theory, and asking Senator Bernie Sanders for a good book recommendation (pictured above).

    In the future, Chris plans on applying to the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship program, with aspirations of entering into the Foreign Service and one day becoming the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Perú.

    Click here to view previous student highlights.

  • Student Highlight: Amy Schoenecker

    by Stephanie Whitaker | Feb 12, 2016
    Amy Schoenecker - 
    Status:  ABD 

    Amy is a graduate student in UIC’s Department of Political Science.  Her dissertation entitled
    Governing the ungovernable? Street vending in Chicago and Mumbai, recently won her, the American Political Science Association’s Norton Long Young Scholar Award.  While she is still in the revision stages of her writing, I asked her to share a few thoughts about her Graduate School journey.

    1. Why you chose UIC?

    I was set to attend the University of Chicago’s Master of Public Policy program before I received UIC’s acceptance letter. UIC’s graduate advisors introduced me to the strengths of the program and made me realize that UIC has a strong tradition of taking the city seriously and would offer an ideal environment to delve into urban issues. I decided upon UIC and it was the best choice I could have made. I benefitted from my mentors’ commitment to students, individual attention, and encouragement of unique and interesting research topics. They allowed me the space and freedom to cultivate my own research agendas, but also have given me the support and tools I need to achieve my research goals.

    2. Why you chose your research topic?

    I have always been interested in studying economic development, the role of marginalized groups, and their political practices. My course work which spanned different departments, and Chicago’s urban environment helped me select my dissertation topic-a comparative study of informal economies, specifically street vending. Many people are surprised to hear that I research street vendors. Yet street vendors are critical economic and politics agents-- not only do they constitute an important segment of their cities’ respective economies but also their treatments and responses offer an excellent platform to understand how politics works. My exposure to the courses beyond my department made me realize that the informal economy and street vendors are under researched topics in political science. My research in Chicago’s neighborhoods made me notice the lack of cross-cultural understandings of both urban politics and informal economies. With the excitement of my advisors I was encouraged to research the topic by incorporating the tenets of various research fields from economic development, local governance to citizen activism, political contestations, and democracy. Given that informal economies and street vending are often seen a third world, developing country problem, in my dissertation I use cases from the global north and the global south, namely Chicago and Mumbai to show that informality and citizen involvement have more in common than people realize. 

    What you've learned that you may/may not have expected to learn about your research?

    My field research in India has been a very rewarding and challenging experience, which substantiated the importance of my project.  I was amazed by the well- regulated chaos in India which is captured in my dissertation title, Governing the ungovernable? Street vending in Chicago and Mumbai. At the beginning of an interview with one of Mumbai’s top officials on street vending, he read the title of my project aloud. “Governing the ungovernable?” I wrote this title to question the supposed unregulated and ungoverned nature of informal economies. As a recent policy change in India, now the Mumbai municipal corporation was tasked with creating vending zones and licensing vendors. Given these changes, the official quipped, after reading my title, “Only now we are governing them!” This perception substantiated my drive to dispel the myth that informality is only regulated when it is officially and legally allowed. Another set of experiences further cemented the importance of this project. In conversation with interview subjects in Mumbai, the topic of street vending in Chicago often came up. A common reaction by Mumbai officials and vendors was amazement that Chicago had street vendors, and that most vendors were working unauthorized—just like in Mumbai. This created unique bonding moments when the ‘subject’ realized that, despite living in cities thousands of miles apart, we shared some common urban experiences.

    Can you talk about some of the influences on your research?  Teaching, waivers, support?

    My research, but more importantly, my development as a graduate student and emerging scholar, would not have been possible without the support from my advisors, UIC’s support and the research support of several national institutions. I was able to benefit from many departmental awards including Milton Rakove Memorial research and paper awards, and the Lynn Ragsdale Fellowship, which helped support my study of Hindi in Jaipur, India. I was able to learn Hindi and complete my initial research in India with the support of awards, like UIC’s Dean’s Scholar Award, and National-level awards, such as the Critical Language Scholarship, and a Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship. Not only did my advisors encourage and support me to pursue many research opportunities, but also we celebrated together as I found success in these awards. Probably the defining moment was at this past American Political Science Association conference (2015) where I received the Norton Long Young Scholar award in front of my main three advisors-Dr. Sultan Tepe, Dr. Dennis Judd, and Dr. Yue Zhang as well as friend, former student, and now assistant professor, Dr. Annika Hinze. I’ve benefitted immensely from the intellectually stimulating supportive environment that Chicago and UIC has provided.

    Click here to view previous student highlights. 

  • Student Highlight: Alberto Barraza

    by Stephanie Whitaker | Jan 27, 2016
    Alberto Barraza photo
    Alberto Barraza - Expected graduation:  May 2016

    Alberto A. Barraza, will be a UIC graduating senior on Mother’s Day weekend, May, 2016.  Even before his high school graduation, he had his sights set on attending UIC for college.  Alberto admits that due to some setbacks, he was not very focused in high school and his grades plummeted.  He did finally get back on track, received his high school diploma, and was able to enroll in Wilbur Wright College.

    While at Wright, Alberto worked full-time with the Chicago Housing Authority.  Even with a full-time job as an Inspector, he managed to graduate with high honors, becoming a member of Phi Theta Kappa honors society, and earning his Associate in Arts degree.  Finally, Alberto saw his dream coming to fruition.  He applied to UIC where he was accepted to the Fall class of 2014.

    Majoring in Political Science and minoring in Criminology, Law, and Justice, Alberto believes UIC has opened up a path for great opportunities.  While taking Political Science 101, he had the opportunity to volunteer as an election judge for the mayoral campaign of 2015 where he was able to get an inside look at the duties in a precinct polling place and see how election votes get processed.

    Alberto was also a member of the award winning UIC Mock Trial Team.  Through this experience he says, he “gained an understanding of trial practice and techniques, and oral advocacy through hands-on training.”  During his senior year, Alberto took on an internship as an attorney’s assistant at R.E. Law Chicago, a real estate law firm, to satisfy the requirements for the Political Science Experiential Learning course, POLS 301.  He did all of this while having a part-time job as the front office manager for HouseHold Inspection Team Inc.

    The best news is that now that his internship has ended, Alberto has been hired as a part-time employee for R.E. Law Chicago! As if, being enrolled as a full-time student and managing two part-time jobs, wasn’t enough, he is involved in the Political Science Student Union (PSSU) where he serves as an Executive Director. Alberto had this to say about PSSU, “With the help of all other e-board members of PSSU, we have managed to bring forward more civic engagement to UIC’s campus, from Presidential campaign watch parties, to Political Science study sessions, and Political Science Alumni Panels.  My main goal as the Executive Director is to ensure that the Political Science Student Union has a well established voter registration team. One of the most effective ways to get others civically engaged is by getting them registered to vote.”

    Mr. Barraza is in the process of being admitted into the Pi Sigma Alpha honors society and will graduate Cum Laude with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a minor in Criminology, Law, and Justice in May.  He says, “this will by far, be my biggest achievement, but more importantly, it is a step towards my main goal, which is to graduate law school and ultimately obtain a Doctor of Science of Law (J.S.D).”

    Click here to view previous student highlights.