Class of 2024 reflects on how UChicago shaped their careers

With Finals Week and dissertations behind them, Convocation is a time of reflection for the Class of 2024. 

We asked some of this year’s graduates to look back at their time at UChicago. From researching next-generation batteries to advocating for migrants’ rights, students appreciated the wide-ranging experiences and opportunities at UChicago, as well as the people who enriched their intellectual journeys. One graduate remarked how much they’ll miss exploring new ideas and perspectives across campus and being surrounded by a “constellation of passionate, curious, brilliant people every day.”

Learn more about some of the Class of 2024 below:

Maya Bauer, graduate student at Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Maya Bauer has more than a decade of experience working in nonprofit, cooperative, consulting and government mostly in public health, community programming, and the arts. She is deeply committed to work that improves the world around us.

Bauer earned her master’s in Social Sector Leadership and Nonprofit management, was honored with the 2024 President’s Volunteer Service Award and earned an honorable mention for the Solomon O. Lichter Memorial Prize.

In addition to her classroom experience at the Crown Family School, Bauer attended countless talks, events, programs and participated in a two-week study abroad program in Hong Kong and Vietnam. She also participated in Washington Week over Spring Break with 25 other Crown students, who traveled to the nation’s capital to tour government and non-profit agencies, meet alumni and participate in informational interviews with potential employers.

 “I have gained generative connections with passionate, compassionate, brilliant, and committed like-minded change agents whom I look forward to knowing and working alongside for a long time,” Bauer said of her time at the Crown Family School.

After graduation, Bauer is excited to reconnect with the brilliant community of nonprofit leaders within the Chicago social sector to leverage her passions and skillsets to have social impact.

“Building relationships, being honest and earnest in the work you do is really important,” Bauer said. “I’m looking forward to bringing that into everything I do moving forward.”

Carrie Collins, graduate student at Harris Public Policy

When Carrie Collins was working as a business administrator at Princeton University, she was asked to redesign a center’s website and began to wonder: With the world becoming almost exclusively digital, how can we create online spaces that are accessible to people, regardless of disability or language barriers? And how can we ensure that as technology progresses, nobody is left behind?

Collins came to UChicago determined to find answers to those questions and to make a difference in technology policy—a field in flux as generative artificial intelligence opens up opportunities for governments to be more responsive to citizens. While on campus, she focused on making sure that she had both qualitative and quantitative skill sets, imagining herself testifying before a Congressional committee.

“I never want to be testifying before Congress and have some other expert witness say things that were not necessarily true, and not having the data or computer science know-how to push back against it. I never want to be in a position where I am unable to assert my evidence-based knowledge to make sure that users get what they need.”

At Harris, she found other ways beyond her academic work to be engaged, becoming editor-in-chief of the Chicago Policy Review and serving on the board of OUTPolitik, the student organization that fosters the LGBTQ+ community at Harris.

After graduation, Collins will work as an associate at Booz Allen, assisting the federal government in its efforts to use technology—including AI and technology policy—to provide services to residents who need them.

Xinghan Guo, Ph.D. candidate at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

While working in the lab of Prof. Alex High, Xinghan Guo developed a diamond-based material platform that integrates uniform thin-film diamond to other materials. Since its development, this platform has shown great potential in quantum sensing, quantum networking and electronic applications. The ability to collaborate across departments and labs drew him to the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.  

“I was amazed by PME’s unique department-funded mutual selection process between students and labs, as well as its vibrant co-advising and collaborative culture between research groups,” he said. “These efforts allow me to receive enough exposure to various fields and perform interdisciplinary studies.”  

Guo plans to continue his quantum work at Yale University as a postdoctoral researcher, working on superconducting qubits and phonons. 

Rachel Huynh, full-time MBA student at Chicago Booth

Rachel Huynh came to Booth with a background in global health and explored her passion for supporting older adults and caregivers, especially from low-income communities. She appreciated the opportunity to team up with her classmates for the Health Equity Case Competition and to source the first health care deal for the Steven Tarrson Impact Investment Fund.

“My time at Booth has allowed me to follow my curiosity and critically explore subjects like inclusive capitalism, affordable housing and climate change,” she said. “I’ll miss how quickly you can explore new ideas and perspectives here, and being around this constellation of passionate, curious, brilliant people every day.”

Huynh, who will work this summer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said one of her favorite experiences at Booth was co-chairing the Asian American Student Association. “It gave me an outlet to build an identity-informed community with my peers.”

Caleb Jeffreys, third-year student at the Law School

While at the Law School, Caleb Jeffreys participated in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic, where he was part of the legal team that achieved a not-guilty verdict in a juvenile trial case. The charges against their young client were serious, making the clinic’s victory life-changing. It was an experience that inspired Jeffreys to become a trial attorney.

His primary responsibility on the team was to conduct a direct examination of one of their key defense witnesses. Jeffreys, AB’20, also was responsible for drafting the cross examination of one of the State’s witnesses and a direct examination of one of his team’s expert witnesses. The work Jeffreys did on this case was his first real trial experience, and he says it made him realize that he wants to do trial work.

“As an alum of the College, I am grateful for the opportunities the Law School has offered me through the Chicago Law Scholarship. The great mentorship of the faculty and clinical professors has allowed me to succeed and push myself to become a better advocate.”

After graduation, Jeffreys will be clerking for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit for two years.

Mónica Ruiz House, fourth-year College student 

Mónica Ruiz House has done extensive work at UChicago with nonprofit organizations and grassroots campaigns focused on migrants’ rights—traveling from refugee camps to remote regions of the Sonoran Desert.

Ruiz House was recently awarded a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant. She is working with an Arizona-based migrant advocacy group called No More Deaths on a comprehensive data project to map the locations where migrants have lost their lives while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“We hope that policy changes will also occur as data on the impacts of prevention through deterrence become more robust,” she said. “By drawing attention to the human cost of policies like this one, we hope to push border policy in a peaceful direction: with accountability, transparency, and compassion for migrant life as guiding principles."

She was also named the 2024 Hugo F. Sonnenschein Medal of Excellence, in recognition of her exceptional commitment to social justice and public service. After graduation, Ruiz House plans to continuing her work with No More Deaths while applying for her MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.

David Sandoval, fourth-year College student

As a molecular engineering major at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, David Sandoval studied the stability of high-energy density, cobalt-free cathodes for next-generation lithium-ion batteries under Prof. Y. Shirley Meng at the Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion. 

“My research at PME on batteries engineered from the molecular level has provided me with key skills critical for impactful work in the renewable energy field. I also deepened my industry knowledge by actively engaging with a network of leading experts I built through PME’s partnership with Argonne National Laboratory,” he said. “This blend of academic and professional growth reinforced my commitment to become an electrochemical scientist and engineer dedicated to tackling climate change and energy inequity through revolutionized technologies.”  

While at UChicago, Sandoval also was an Odyssey Scholar, Questbridge Scholar, Argonne Student STEM Ambassador and Research Aide at Argonne National Laboratory. 

After graduation, he plans to begin his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at Princeton University, with the long-term goal of joining the energy industry, helping facilitate the global transition from fossil fuels.