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Alumni Spotlight

Yesenia Lopez

After obtaining my degree in Political Science and minor in Women and Gender Studies in 2011, I did a year of AmeriCorps volunteer service in Chicago's southwest communities. In 2013, my passion for social justice led me to participate in the competitive Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Fellowship in Washington, D.C. As a CHCI Fellow, I worked with in the U.S. House of Representatives in the office of Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (IL-04) and the American Bar Association (ABA) in the Commission On Immigration division. After returning to Chicago, I worked with SGA Youth & Families Services, a social service organization, as the Operations Coordinator and continue my volunteer work with various Chicagoland organizations.

Currently, I work as the Director of Operations for the political campaign of Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for Congress (IL-04). I also serve as the Vice Chair of Telpochcalli Community Education Project (Tcep) Board of Directors, Secretary of the CHCI Alumni Association Chicago Chapter Board, and on DePaul University Young Alumni Committee.

My education and experience through DePaul University and the Steans Center have provided me with a wide range of opportunities to continue my work in the social justice field. I look forward towards the next chapter in my career and to continue expanding my education via a post-graduate degree in the upcoming years.

I graduated from DePaul in 2007.  Afterward, I attended the University of Miami's law school.   I'm currently working as an assistant public defender for the Cook County Public Defender, in the Civil Division.
After I graduated from DePaul in 2012, I enrolled in nursing school and became a nurse. I worked in the healthcare field for about one year.  Currently, I am enrolled in the Northern Illinois University College of Law.  My goal is to specialize in criminal law and combine it with my healthcare background.  In June, I went to DePaul University's College of Law for a pre-law program called LegalTrek, a pipeline program to help prepare for law school.  I am also a mentor at DePaul University's ASK program.  I volunteer at the Alumni Sharing Knowledge program because it is one way to give back to DePaul.
Alex Thibodeau

After graduating from DePaul, I worked briefly as an on-air correspondent for WBEZ/NPR/Vocalo-Chicago on a variety of their programs, while also teaching journalism to at-risk high school students on Chicago’s west side. In 2013, I took a position with a healthcare technology company in River North, called “Upp Tech,” that worked to help the public health sector adapt to the regulations imposed on them by the Affordable Care Act and I eventually gained the title of senior consultant.

In 2015, I began law school at Indiana University, Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, IN.  During the first half of my 1L summer, I worked in a judicial clerkship/internship for Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. on the Michigan Supreme Court.  During the second half, I was granted the Milton Stewart Fellowship which provided the opportunity to work in New Delhi clerking for a senior advocate to the Federal Supreme Court of India.

I’m currently finishing up my second year and, so far, it has been extremely good to me.  I received "oral advocacy honors" in the Sherman Minton Moot Court Competition last fall and was elected “Mr. Maurer” (the Barrister’s Ball King) for my impact on the law school community.  I serve as the Notes & Comments editor for the Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality, the Social Action Coordinator for the Black Law Student Association, and was elected chair of the Student Bar Association. I’ve also been chosen as the 2017-18 executive affiliate for the Center for Constitutional Democracy, an institution that advises constitutional reform processes in struggling and unstable democracies around the world.  I also work as an editorial affiliate on the Indiana Journal of Constitutional Design and hope to have my research regarding the “express and implied powers of a commander-in-chief” published next fall.

I will be spending my 2L summer as an associate with Foster, Swift, Collins, & Smith in Grand Rapids, MI, in one of their litigation sections.

Joan Ellen Smuda

I graduated from LAS (political science) in 1975 and from DePaul's law school in 1978. I was an officer in the Political Science Student Association and served as a student-faculty liaison in the department. I have fond memories of my professors and classmates. Today, I am the chief of the Revenue Litigation Bureau in the Chicago office of the Attorney General of Illinois.

Aara Johnson

After graduating from DePaul with a major in Political Science and minor in Spanish, I pursued a Master of Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. I focused on International Development Education and intended to build a career in international development through an education lens. My thesis was an alumni evaluation for a college in rural Bolivia.

After graduating with my Masters in 2011, I had part- time research positions with education nonprofits based in MN but worked in Tanzania and Bolivia. I also had part-time research positions related to higher education policy.

In 2013, I became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia, as an English Teacher Trainer. I worked in an urban secondary school with a team of teachers to improve English language education since Colombia wants to be- come a bilingual country. I also worked on girls' empowerment by leading clubs and camps to talk about health, professionalism, relationships, and more. After I completed my service in 2015, I moved to Bogota to serve an international education NGO as a Monitoring and Evaluation Researcher. My position was in Spanish where I traveled around the country to observe different projects and write a monitoring report.

In 2016, I pivoted my career due to the federal hiring freeze after the presidential election. I had passed my Foreign Service Education Officer interview with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), but they canceled the position in 2017. In the meantime, I began working in Minnesota education policy related to English Learners and language education. I had two fellowships researching state and federal policy strengthening language education and school accountability for it.

I am the Program Director for the Emerging Multilingual Learners Network at the MN Education Equity Partnership. I lead our research, advocacy, and network building efforts to reshape and improve language education in our state for the fastest growing student group. I navigate the politics of educational institutions, the state education agency, and the state legislature to ensure educational equity for students of color and American Indian students in Minnesota.

Brian Easley

I completed my bachelor's degree in Political Science from DePaul in 2010, after a few wonderful years as a student in Chicago and as intern at the European Parliament through DePaul's Study Abroad program to Leuven, Belgium. Instead of walking the stage in 2010 though, I returned to the United States Army as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the infantry. I was already a Wounded Warrior from 2003; wounded during a 1st Infantry Division combat deployment to Ar Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraq. My time on the TDRL (Temporary Disability Retired List) from those wounds was up, and I chose to return to service in early 2010. I not only returned to the Army, but also to Iraq. In 2011, I deployed for almost a year to southern Iraq, working in Nasiriyah and Basra with the 1st Cavalry Division.

I decided to leave the military for the final time in 2013, departing as a Staff Sergeant and service-connected combat-disabled veteran, in order to pursue my master's degree in International Security Studies at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., which I completed in 2015. During that time, I served as a Federal Pathways Intern at the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, and then spent some time at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics as a Desk Officer with a portfolio of defense and intelligence agencies.

I later married and moved back to my wife's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. I entered the family business, and am now the Vice President of Druther's, a small company that used to be known from Florida all the way to Illinois and Missouri, as well as internationally, as the Burger Queen, Huckleberry's and Druther's chains of restaurants. We've been a part of the Dairy Queen family since 1990, and that real estate and restaurant portfolio is still the main part of our business. I maintain my interests in political science and international affairs as a Board Member with the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana, as a 1918 Society Member of the World Affairs Councils of America, an Associate Member of the Foreign Policy Association, as well through membership in several other political science-oriented associations and groups.

I have very fond memories of my time in Chicago; most notably learning from professors Stalley, Callahan, Farkas and Block. I wish you all the best at DePaul. Best wishes from Kentucky.