Psychologist recalls undergraduate experience

Karina Reyes

“I have never stopped identifying with undergraduate students,” says Karina Reyes. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.


The Behavioral Sciences Building may be a maze to some, but not Karina Reyes. Many of the psychology classes Reyes took as a UIC undergraduate are in the same building where she now teaches.

“I have never stopped identifying with undergraduate students,” Reyes says. She vividly remembers her days as a UIC student and incorporates some of the things she learned from her instructors into her own teaching.

After graduating from UIC, Reyes received a master’s and Ph.D. in clinical community psychology at DePaul University.

“I wasn’t sure about my future in the field because of how competitive it is,” she says. “I feel privileged and happy about how things have turned out for me, especially here at UIC. This is really where I grew and found my passion as a teacher.”

Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Reyes attended a high school where academic success fell victim to outside influences such as gangs, drugs and violence. She left that neighborhood behind, but its influence remains — her research asks why some high-risk kids don’t finish high school, while others succeed.

Her research is assisted by graduate and undergraduate students.

“UIC students are wonderful to work with,” she says. “They are so bright and eager to learn.

“I want to provide them with the best education possible. I tell them, ‘Use me, use me. I’m here to help you make the best use of your college education.’

“I have been fortunate to win several teaching awards, but winning this one feels extra special somehow.”

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