‘Fierce determination’ to make a difference in the world

Fransely Robles

“I’m always running about, but I still manage to fulfill the roles I’m playing,” says Fransley Robles, UIC’s 2013 Lincoln laureate.

Friends of Fransely Robles joke that the Honors College student should leave some awards and scholarships for them to win.

Among the honors Robles has received at UIC: the UIC Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, Hilda Arce Lopez Scholarship, Chancellor’s Student Service and Leadership Award and Mary Bialas Gender and Women Studies Award.

“I don’t expect to win every award and I don’t get discouraged if I don’t win one,” said Robles, a senior majoring in psychology and gender and women’s studies with a minor in religious studies.

“I just go on and look for the next thing,”

The latest accomplishment for Robles is being named the 2013 UIC Lincoln Academy student laureate, an honor given to an outstanding senior at each of the four-year colleges and universities in Illinois.

The laureates were recognized Nov. 2 during a ceremony at the Old State Capitol in the House of Representatives Chamber in Springfield, and later at a luncheon in their honor at the Governor’s Executive Mansion.

“It shows my dedication to public service, to being a leader on campus and being involved while also having academic excellence,” Robles said of the accolade. “It really shows UIC’s investment in my education and preparing me for more beyond UIC.”

As a self-supporting student, Robles works several part-time campus jobs. However, it hasn’t deterred the determined undergrad from taking advantage of numerous out-of-classroom educational opportunities.

Robles, former research assistant at the UIC Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Violence, is an intern at the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, a fellow and vice president with UIC’s Agape Campus Ministry, as well as a member of the student organization Feminists United and the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Individuals — all while carrying a full class load.

Other activities include mentoring and volunteering for several Honors College programs.

According to the Humboldt Park native, successful time management skills and practicing self-care — which includes rest, running and spoken-word poetry — are key factors that make it possible to be a high achiever inside and outside the classroom.

“I’m always running about, but I still manage to fulfill the roles I’m playing,” Robles said.

Robles started as a pre-med major, but discovered a passion for gender and women’s studies while reading manifestos by radical feminists and learning about early feminist movements.

Through gender and women’s studies coursework, and with support from the UIC Gender and Sexuality Center, Robles, who identifies as transgender, achieved greater personal understanding of identity and hopes to share those insights with other LGBTQ individuals, especially teens.

“The idea that different kinds of people — those who are transitioning, or who are gender non-conforming, or gender-queer — can be underneath the umbrella of ‘transgender’ is beautiful to me,” Robles said.

“Fighting for LGBTQ youth and their rights is my passion. Being LGBTQ-identified myself, it has always been important to me. Gay-straight alliances didn’t exist in my high school when I was there, and now they do. It’s getting better, but there’s still more work to be done.”

With graduation ahead in May, Robles is applying to graduate programs in divinity studies, with plans to eventually pursue a doctorate and facilitate connections between faith-based and LGBTQ communities.

John D’Emilio, professor of gender and women’s studies and history, worked with Robles on an independent study project and is confident that the energetic student will succeed in any endeavor.

“Robles has really fierce determination, wants to make a difference in the world, and will work as hard as is needed to succeed at any goal,” D’Emilio said.

Robles does not plan to cut back on activities before graduation.

“For me, enjoying things more means getting more involved and doing as much as I can do on campus before I graduate,” Robles said.

“So I do not have senioritis. In fact, it’s definitely the opposite.”

— Erin Vogel contributed to this story.

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