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Isaiah M. Stewart

Photo of Isaiah Stewart

2023 Dean's Merit Award Bachelor’s, human development and learning

When Isaiah M. Stewart first enrolled at the University of Illinois Chicago, he was not sure what his major should be. First, he thought psychology might be a good fit. Then he switched to marketing. His direction became clear after he took a class in the College of Education.  

Associate Professor David Mayrowetz’s class, Child and Youth Policies in Urban America, sparked his interest. “When I took that class, I realized I wanted to learn and explore more,” Stewart said. 

Stewart’s belief that pursuing a degree in human development and learning was the right fit and was confirmed when, at the end of the class, the teaching assistant offered him a research position.  This immediately gave him the opportunity to gain valuable experience. 

Stewart said what he liked most about his experience at the College of Education is the sense of community. “Not only do I get to interact with my peers, but I feel like the leaders of our college are accessible. I was also put in a position as a College of Education student ambassador, where I could serve as a liaison between the administration and students.” 

Just as taking Mayrowetz’s class inspired Stewart to focus on his degree, research with Assistant Professor Terrell Morton, whom he met in 2022, motivated him to continue his education and  pursue a PhD in educational psychology.  

“Some of the research that I have been doing with Professor Terrell Morton is exploring and figuring out how we can acquire equity for Black people in STEM. We are seeking justice, and we are providing a lens for joy while doing that. And that is a direct extension of the College of Education.” 

Nic Weststrate, assistant professor of educational psychology, is another faculty member who Stewart sees as embodying the college’s value of justice through his research with the LGBTQ+ community.  

The access to leadership, including Dean Kathryn Chval, has been a constant during Stewart’s time at UIC that he says has been valuable. “She establishes an open line of communication with new students. She tells students they can email her or come to her office if they have any questions or want to talk to her.” 

This has been an unexpected bonus for Stewart, who experienced support navigating situations as a first-generation college student, when he was experiencing financial issues and when he had a death in the family. “I am so grateful for that support.”