When in Rome...

Diana Funez
Photo Credit: 
Aubrey Christofersen

Student Profile: Karla Ruiz, AB’20 (Political Science, expected)

For rising second-year Karla Ruiz, majoring in Political Science means learning for a larger purpose. “I’m interested in knowing the history of politics and knowing how to bring people together,” she says. “I’m interested in learning about the broader scope and bigger picture.”


Beginning in the Core, Ruiz found that courses like the Mind sequence (SOSC 14100-14200-14300) directly connected reading in the classroom with researchers who specialized in what she was learning. “The lectures were taught by the professors whose research was in that particular field,” explains Ruiz. She was impressed by the expertise of Professor M. Leslie Kay of the Psychology Department and David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor Martha K. McClintock of the Psychology and Comparative Human Development Departments. “They talked about biology and the mind and that was their research.” For example, she says, Professor Kay incorporated her research in mice when talking about sensory stimuli.


Ruiz plans to augment her experiences on campus through the Study Abroad program in Rome. “I want to have a more immersive experience where I’m living in the actual culture and area,” she says. Her courses in Italian and the Humanities Core have prepared her for this opportunity. Last Autumn Quarter, she enrolled in Greece and Rome: Texts, Traditions, Transformations (HUMA 12050-12150-12250), taught by Professor Raymond W. Ciacci of the Department of Classics. Ciacci was among the first to design the course. “He’s been teaching the same texts for years,” says Ruiz. “He’s an expert on translations, and he could tell us what was different about each new translation.”


Outside of class, Ruiz focuses on using Political Science in creative ways. She is involved in Model United Nations of the University of Chicago (MUNUC), ChoMUN, and Pi Beta Phi. For both MUNUC and ChoMUN this year, Ruiz was an assistant chair. “In ChoMUN I worked in the backroom responding to crisis notes from participants,” she says, “while in MUNUC I was in the front room taking notes on the participants’ speeches and participation.” She hopes that her work in MUNUC will help her get informed and help others.


This summer, Ruiz is broadening her understanding of the larger Social Sciences community through a Metcalf internship with the Division’s communications office. She is working with the Divisional website to offer suggestions for improvements and help identify necessary fixes. Ruiz says she has learned much about the graduate school institutes and centers within the Division. “It’s not often that an undergraduate gets the chance to offer her own perspective,” she says. “I’m interested to see how they take my suggestions.”


Working for the Division and taking courses in the Social Sciences has helped Ruiz see how all of the departments—including Political Science—fit under one umbrella. “It’s not that anyone has to do things similarly or have the same goal,” she says. “All the departments put in different research, different work, different understanding of people. They all have different scopes, whether big or small. Comparative Politics covers whole systems or Psychology can come down to a single mind.”


Ruiz looks forward to taking Introduction to International Relations (PLSC 29000) and Introduction to American Politics (PLSC 28801) for her major this upcoming year. She isn’t sure what that bigger career picture might become, but she’s keeping her options open for a possible Art History major or minor as well as some potential History courses. “Right now I’m looking into a joint degree,” Ruiz says. “I might also take a mixed grad school class. It’ll be harder but it’ll be more focused [on specific topics or concentrations].”