Inspiring grads: Doctorate degree caps 18-year academic career at UIC
David Segura came to UIC as a freshman with a guaranteed seat in medical school, but in December, he’ll cap his 18-year academic career at UIC with a Ph.D. from the College of Education.
“My interests evolved,” said Segura, recounting the steps he took through his journey at UIC.
A high-achieving student, Segura was on track to become a doctor when he took an honors seminar focused on education. After realizing that it piqued his interest, he had a decision to make.
“I just felt that education was more of a direct way to affect people’s lives,” he said.
Segura, who joined UIC in 2000, graduated with his bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry in 2004. After, he chose to teach science at a Chicago Public School, the Greater Lawndale High School for Social Justice. He taught there for eight years while pursuing a first master’s in curriculum and instruction (’07), then a second master’s in measurement, evaluation, statistics and Assessment (’13).
“Teaching is great, wonderful and I miss it, but it’s also very constrained in what you could do,” Segura said. “As soon as I graduated, I started a doctoral program because [a mentor] really got me thinking that by being a professor or academic, I could make a larger impact.”
So, Segura completed a Ph.D. in policy studies in urban education. His doctoral dissertation, which he defended over the summer, focused on how students use social capital to persist in science majors. His research interests now are on identity development and persistence of underrepresented students in the STEM field.
“That’s the goal for the next couple of years,” Segura said, “getting my research going.”
Meanwhile, he’s focused on his new role as an assistant professor of education and youth studies at Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin.
The achievement speaks volumes for Segura, especially because he’s a first-generation Latino graduate. His father’s education stopped after third grade.
“I can’t believe it’s real,” Segura said. “I’m in my office sometimes and I think about my parents, how we grew up poor. My dad retired working at a hotel kitchen. My mom is a mental health tech. I know my parents are just over-the-world proud, and I just think about how fortunate I’ve been to make it to this point.”
It’s been no easy feat.
Segura has juggled jobs, research and school for his dream. But his new gig is already paying off.
“I’ve been [at Beloit] for weeks and I have students come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I’ve never had a Latinx professor,’ and it’s just a big deal for me,” Segura said. “It makes me realize how much there is left to do.”