Advocating for herself, others with disabilities
Katie Longos aspires to be an advocate to help others who, like herself, live with a disability.
When she was in high school, Longos was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2), a neurological disorder that can lead to tumor growth within the nervous system. Because of the condition, Longos has lost her hearing and uses a wheelchair.
“The physical effects of NF2 didn’t present themselves until my late 20s, but unfortunately they progressed quite rapidly,” she wrote in an email.
“It’s really profound how much society’s judgement changes with a person’s appearance. Becoming a minority virtually overnight has been a greater learning experience than a formal education will ever provide. I am so much more conscious of the barriers that minorities face in everyday life.
“Ironically, I think these unfortunate events will be the biggest contributor to my ability to advocate and serve on behalf of others.”
She joined UIC in 2016, after transferring from the City Colleges of Chicago to pursue a psychology degree.
“I chose UIC because of the opportunities offered by the Honors College,” she wrote. “Best decision ever. I will never forget the private luncheons they offered with city and state officials. I got to ask questions about the current administration that [MSNBC political commentators] Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow didn’t.”
Longos has conducted research in the lab of Bette Bottoms, professor of psychology and dean emerita of the Honors College. Her interest in psychology was inspired by her self-advocacy work.
“I have spent hundreds of hours researching my illness, learning medical terminology, how to read MRIs and the anatomy of the brain and nervous system,” she wrote. “I always make sure that I am getting the best care. All of these experiences have cultivated a passion for both neuro and behavioral psychology.”
Her work ethic hasn’t gone unnoticed by Bottoms.
“Katie Longos is the most inspiring student I have ever encountered in my entire academic career, among thousands of others,” Bottoms said. “On top of unusual intellectual skills, she has more grit, determination and fortitude than anyone I have ever known.”
This fall, Longos will pursue her master’s in social services administration at the University of Chicago.
“Katie has all the characteristics of a person who will distinguish herself, and in this case, distinguish herself not for her own personal glory, but on behalf of others – people with disability who sometimes need powerful advocacy to reach their full potential,” Bottoms said.
“Katie will become an advocate, public policy expert, and a leader who will effect change broadly in the city of Chicago.”
For her Honors College capstone research, Longos interned at Artfully Gifted, a nonprofit for individuals who have intellectual and physical disabilities who are pursuing entrepreneurship.
“It was an amazing and humbling experience that I otherwise would have never had,” she wrote.
Through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, she was awarded the Urban Public Policy Fellowship to work with the Department of Family Support Services in the Mayor’s Office. She helps support the team of women who administer the One Summer Chicago program, which provides summer employment and internship opportunities for young adults.
“I will leave that fellowship with so much insight into what it takes to produce city programs,” she wrote. “I will reflect on the qualities of the women who run that program when I begin my career in social services.”
She looks forward to a career serving others.
“Ultimately, I’ll feel satisfied when I am able to say that I’m part of the solution,” she wrote.