New Members Join Board of Visitors

Phil ChavezPhil Chavez

UW Soc Connection: BA 1994

What he’s doing now: I am currently serving my fourth consecutive 4-year elected term as a City of Milwaukee Municipal Judge and also serve as a member on the UW-Madison Letters and Science Alumni of Color Advisory Committee.

Why Sociology is important to him: Sociology has given me the tools to critically assess and analyze the socioeconomic impact that exists between citizens and the law, helping me to continually strive to be a fair and compassionate arbiter of justice.

Alex HannaAlex Hanna

UW Soc Connection: PhD 2016

What she’s doing now: I’m the Director of Research at the Distributed AI Research Institute, a non-profit research institute focused on developing community-centered AI research and defending against the harms of AI technology.

Why Sociology is important to her: Sociology gives me an analytical lens for looking at the world that is beyond the individual and connects to the institutional and structural. As a tech worker, I’m in a field where people focus too much on the technical aspects of systems and not enough around the context around them. Sociology allows me to expand my analysis and incorporate a more holistic view around how technology can affect us.

Vanessa McDowellVanessa McDowell

UW Soc Connection: BA 2003

What she’s doing now: I am the first Black woman CEO of YWCA Madison in its 108 year history.

Why Sociology is important to her: Sociology is important to me because it gave voice to my passion for justice.

Gary Sandefur headshotGary Sandefur

UW Soc Connection: Professor of Sociology with UW Soc 1984-2014; Dean of College of Letters and Science 2004-2013

What he’s doing now: I am serving on the Advisory Committee for the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) at the National Academies, working with units within DBASSE on a possible consensus study of the well-being of American Indians and doing some volunteer demographic work with the local United Way on poverty in the county it serves.

Why Sociology is important to him: As a discipline, Sociology provided me the opportunity to learn more about poverty, inequality, racial inequality, and family issues. The Department of Sociology at Wisconsin was a wonderful place to spend most of my career.

Caitlin Suemnicht Caitlin Suemnicht

UW Soc Connection: BA 2006

What she’s doing now: I’m the CEO of Food Fight Restaurant Group. We are about to open a new restaurant called Manny’s Parkside in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin–our first restaurant outside of the Madison area. My husband and I are also expecting our first child this June.

Why Sociology is important to her: Sociology helps me understand the world around me, and on a smaller scale, helps me to better understand social issues and consider solutions to problems that exist in business and our community.