Ralph Keen, Dean of Honors College
Ralph Keen, Dean of the Honors College (2015-16), was a classics major as an undergraduate and received his PhD in the history of Christianity. Before he came to UIC in 2010 as professor of history and Schmitt Chair in Catholic Studies, he taught in the Religious Studies department at the University of Iowa, where he was also Director of Undergraduate Studies and Honors Advisor (as well as supervisor of dozens of senior research projects). He has also been a visiting professor at Harvard Divinity School.
Honors mentoring, he feels, calls for allowing oneself to be challenged and stimulated by a student’s plans. What’s your dream? How far do you want to go? A good advisor and teacher listens to the Honors College student and guides that person on a path toward realizing that goal. All our students, Keen feels, are impressive on paper and in person; but it’s when working with them that they inspire their professors. The best students bring out the best efforts in those lucky enough to work with them. Mr. Keen sees his job as making those productive relationships possible.
Stacie McCloud Williams, Associate Dean
Dean McCloud Williams has been working in the Honors College since 1992 after completing her degree in education. She went on to complete her Master’s degree in teaching of mathematics in 1995. She works with students throughout their entire time in the Honors College, beginning with admission, serving as an academic advisor, and coordinating the graduation convocation. Dean McCloud Williams also works on planning Honors College courses, and maintaining student records.
Crystal L. Patil, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Dr. Patil has a PhD in medical anthropology from Ohio State University. Her research focuses on how the social world becomes embodied and expressed as health, illness or suffering. The motivation for this work stems from a concern for social justice. Her courses incorporate theoretical and practical applications from the social sciences and human biology to address health disparities. Equally important, her mentoring and teaching fosters productive careers of students. Dr. Patil works closely with Honors College students as they place the "capstone" on their undergraduate experience in their final year that is representative of a challenging intellectual and developmental process related to the student's home discipline (thesis, creative arts project, outputs of a service-learning project or internship).
Eliza Callahan, Academic Advisor and Program Specialist
Eliza has been a member of the Honors College staff since 2010. Eliza is the coordinator for the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions (GPPA) initiative. She also serves as an academic advisor and HON 101 instructor. Eliza also works to coordinate the advising and initiatives of the Honors College. She is an active member of the National Association of Advisors in the Health Professions (NAAHP), the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and the Illinois Academic Advising Association (ILACADA). She received her Master’s in Higher Education Administration from George Washington University and her B.A. in Anthropology from McGill University.
Michele McCrillis, Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Outreach Programs
Michele McCrillis is an Art Historian and prior to joining the Honors College in 2017, taught at Columbus State University (CSU) in Georgia for seventeen years, where she was Associate Professor of Art History specializing in 19th and 20th century art. While at CSU, McCrillis created and taught courses for the Honors College and collaborated with faculty across disciplines to develop and teach Freshman Learning Communities and International Learning Communities. She also taught Study Abroad programs in Italy and the United Kingdom. She received several teaching awards, including Outstanding Teacher of Writing in 2012. In 2015 she was nominated by her university for the Council of Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) US Professor of the Year. Her duties for the Honors College at UIC include curriculum programming, working with the Faculty Fellows and developing outreach programming and grants for externally funded projects. She is very excited to be back in Chicago, where she received her Masters in Art History, Theory and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is originally from London, England.
Nikki Gottleib, Academic Advisor and Program Specialist
Nikki joined the Honors College staff in the fall of 2016, and advises students, teaches in HON 101, and creates programming around leadership and service. She completed her B.A. in Communications and Theatre & Drama at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her M.Ed. in Higher Education at Loyola University Chicago. Nikki grew up in Wisconsin, but has been in Chicago since 2008 and has worked at Loyola, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and in the virtual world at Kaplan University. On the side, she freelances as an event coordinator and you can sometimes find her on a trolley during the holiday season, leading tours around the city. Nikki is an avid theatre fan, a big reader and book collector, obsessed with her dog, and often retains too much knowledge of pop culture.
Sara Mehta, Academic Advisor and Program Specialist
Sara advises students, instructs the Honors 101 first-year experience course, and handles the communication efforts for the Honors College, including the Honors College Announcements, the Handbook, and the Facebook page. She is also the liaison for The Ampersand, a student newsletter. Sara joined the Honors College staff in the Spring of 2013. Prior to coming to UIC, Sara worked with service-learning programs at Saint Xavier University and at the University of Michigan. Originally from southern Illinois, she earned a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.A. in Higher Education from the University of Michigan.
Stephanie O’Leary, Academic Advisor and Program Specialist
Stephanie hails from Zanesville, Ohio and joined the Honors College in August 2013 after moving to the Chicago area. She completed her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Notre Dame and her Ed.M. in Higher Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Prior to joining the Honors College advising staff at UIC, Stephanie worked as an academic advisor at UIUC and McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Illinois. In addition to advising students and teaching HON 101, Stephanie develops initiatives related to career development and pre-professional preparation. In her spare time, she loves cooking with her husband and friends and is always on the lookout for new recipes to try.
Massiel De los Santos, Academic Advisor and Program Specialist
Massiel joined the Honors College in August 2017. Originally from the Dominican Republic and Boston, MA, she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies at Smith College and her Master of Arts in Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before joining the Honors College staff, Massiel worked as a Success Counselor in Bottom Line, where she provided academic, financial aid, career, and life counseling to first-generation, low-income students in the Chicago area. In addition to advising students and teaching HON 101, Massiel coordinates the first-year programming, the Honors Ambassadors program, and the weekly Honors College Announcements. During her free time, she enjoys traveling with her wife and family, reading, researching feminism in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and volunteering. Massiel is a native Spanish speaker.
José Meléndez, Postdoctoral Fellow in Teaching and Mentoring
José W. Meléndez received his doctorate from the Learning Sciences program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), with a co-discipline in Urban Planning and Policy. His research focuses on the interrelation between the environment, participants, and language and how each of these components works to facilitate civic education and learning in democratic activity. As an interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Meléndez’ novel use of qualitative methods in his research pushes the boundaries of theory and concept building in the areas of civic engagement, learning, and participation.
Dr. Meléndez’ current work and research is influenced by his previous work and scholarly experiences, seeking to combine theoretical and practical solutions for community development settings. Dr. Meléndez received his B.A. from Oberlin College and his M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from UIC. He has worked in the public health and education sectors in Washington, DC and Chicago.
In his position as a Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Meléndez teaches freshman core classes and & advanced seminars, in addition to providing general academic and Honors Capstone advising. Lastly, Dr. Meléndez is the Co-Director of the Chicago Signature Honors Programming initiative, which involves developing and leading cultural enrichment programming.
Chris Davis, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Teaching and Mentoring
Chris Davis is an archaeologist currently serving as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Teaching and Mentoring, with an honorary affiliation with the Department of Anthropology. His doctoral research focused on the rock art and archaeoastronomy of paleoindians along the lower Amazon River in Brazil, near the end of the Ice Age. His excavations revealed that the first pioneers to that region made red and yellow pictographs that faced the horizon positions of the rising and setting sun throughout the year. His findings led him to believe these early American pioneers made a pictorial almanac on cliff walls to "predict" periods of resource abundance to maximize hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies and labor efficiency. The resultant eco-astronomy lore appears to have passed down throughout the ages encoded in myths, artistic symbolism, architecture and village planning, and in festivals and communal rituals.
Currently, his research has begun to focus more generally on the various ways that knowledge is generated and transmitted within societies and throughout time.
In addition to teaching Foundations for the Future, an undergraduate preparatory course for post-graduation, Davis also teaches a philosophical/anthropological course, “Facts, Truth, Trust, and Knowledge,” and a course on pre-world history called “Rise of Civilizations.”
Julio Chavarria, IT Technical Associate
Julio is a UIC alum with a Bachelors in Computer Engineering. Prior to joining the Honors College he was the Network Analyst for UIC's Great Lakes ADA Center. As the IT Technical Associate, Julio manages the daily operations of the IT office for the Honors College and assesses all aspects of the IT infrastructure to identify opportunities for improvement and efficiency. This includes databases, the computer lab, backup/restore functions, etc. As the College's webmaster, Julio also makes technical additions and changes to the college's website to ensure that all constituents have up-to-date information at their fingertips.
Tyler Nielsen, Program Assistant
As an alumnus of both UIC and the Honors College, Tyler is proud to continue to serve the UIC community! After graduating in 2012 with a BFA in Performance from the School of Theatre & Music, Tyler began his professional career at the Honors College transitioning from a student employment position to a full-time member of the Operations team. In parallel with his work at the Honors College, Tyler also helped to co-found Realize Theatre Group (RTG), with the focus of creating necessary and challenging work that speaks, on a visceral level, to Chicago audiences about issues relevant to local communities. In the four years since graduating, Tyler has also worked extensively with Prop Thtr, one of Chicago’s oldest surviving storefront theatres, satisfying his undying need to always be on and around the stage. Returning to UIC from 2.5 years in the corporate world in October 2016, Tyler is proud to be the Program Assistant and looks forward to working closely with students, staff and faculty alike to ensure the best possible experience for all those who interact with the Honors College.