Soc major expands horizons in Ireland, inclusivity, and at home

Phylicia Rivera
Degree: BS Sociology, College of Letters & Science
Hometown: Milwaukee
It’s a Fact: She’s learning Irish Gaelic, and getting married this summer.

Phylicia Rivera was involved in everything she could fit into her schedule while at UWM, and wishes she had time to pursue even more classes in different subjects.

As it is, she’s graduating with a major in sociology and minors in global studies and history.

“If I could do everything I wanted,” she says, “I’d be graduating with a lot of degrees.”

Rivera came to UWM as a Chancellor’s Scholar, has studied abroad in Ireland, served as president of the Multicultural Student Coalition for three years, and worked in the Union’s sociocultural programming office for two years. She also was one of several student representatives involved in the Inclusive Excellence project to support diversity on campus, and contributed to a report on campus climate.

On April 11, she received the Joan W. Moore Service-Scholar Award from the Department of Sociology for her work.

A graduate of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee, she was considering a number of universities when she was offered the Chancellor’s Scholarship. “My mom is a single mom and this was an awesome opportunity.”

Shortly after coming to UWM, she met Linda Huang, now a program manager in Global Inclusion and Engagement, who encouraged her to pursue her interests in multicultural student affairs.  As a result of her work with UWM, she had the opportunity to attend a number of conferences of the American Multicultural Student Leadership Coalition and bring ideas back to campus.

Rivera liked UWM’s diversity of cultures, ages, economic and family backgrounds, and enjoyed being part of the effort to make the campus a better place for all. “I knew if I wanted to see changes, I’d have to go to work to help make it happen.”

In the spring of 2012, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland. She became interested in Irish culture, and started studying Gaelic. She interned with Pat Ramsey, the former mayor of Derry and now a leader of the country’s Social Democratic and Labour Party.

Right now, in addition to completing her classes, Rivera works 30 hours a week as a dental claims administrator, interns with the nonprofit Running Rebels, and is looking forward to a short breather after graduation. Then she’ll get busy planning for her fall wedding.

Her husband-to-be is applying to pharmacy schools so she can’t really focus on job hunting until they know where he’ll be accepted. She’s thought about grad school as part of her future, but with her many interests isn’t sure yet what one subject she’d like to pursue.

After all her classes and experiences at UWM, she’s found her current career interest grew out of her job in the Union’s programming office. “I really enjoy event planning and would like to find something in that field, and eventually start my own business.

“I’ve had an incredible experience at UWM,” she says, adding that she was glad to make a permanent contribution to campus.  She was part of the student advisory group that came up with the idea for an Inclusive Excellence Center.

“It’s really awesome to actually see a good idea come to life.”