Catching Up With Kira… (Wilpone-Jordan)

Kira at her desk at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

Kira at her desk at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.

Kira Wilpone-Jordan graduated from the SOAN department (then CSOC) in 2010. One of our most distinguished graduates, she received the C.Wright Mills Award, the E. Ann Neel Award, the Distinguished Senior Thesis Award, the Distinguished Departmental Service Award, and perhaps most impressive, she won the Pacific Sociological Association’s Distinguished Undergraduate Paper award. She recently sent us this update on her post-Puget Sound career:

Greetings from Chicago![1]

Gareth recently asked me to update the SOAN Department on my life since graduating from Puget Sound in 2010. Reflecting back on the past five years, it is apparent that my time in the SOAN Department instilled in me the critical thinking and communication skills needed to pursue my graduate studies and career goals as a public interest housing attorney.

After graduating from Puget Sound, I moved to Chicago to pursue my graduate studies at the University of Chicago’s Masters in Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS). MAPSS, much like Puget Sound and the SOAN Department, is a program that promotes interdisciplinary studies. While in MAPSS, I studied the local implementation of Illinois’s state hate crime statute by Illinois’s county sheriff offices. My research focused on integrating the law and sociological theory to better understand how hierarchical administrative agencies impact individuals’ interactions with the law.

Although sociology had been my focus throughout undergrad and in my graduate studies, after graduate school I enrolled at the University of Chicago Law School. I was drawn to law school because of the impact the law has on the daily lives of individuals. Unfortunately, the impact of the law maps onto oppressive social structures. Therefore, individuals, who are most often ignored and discounted in our society, are more likely to have negative experiences with the law. However, my vision of what the law can and should be is best articulated by Justice O’Connor in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.  Laws should be “measured [by their] impact on those whose conduct it affects…. [The] proper focus…is the group for whom the law is a restriction, not the group for whom the law is irrelevant.

Kira with fellow alumni, Caitlin Wilpone-Jordan, 99 floors above Chicago at what she refers to as the 'What You Talkin’ About Willis’ Tower.

Kira with fellow alumni, Caitlin Wilpone-Jordan, 99 floors above Chicago at what she refers to as the ‘What You Talkin’ About Willis’ Tower.

Stemming in part from my graduate research, I wanted my legal work to be a mitigating force against oppressive structures. Thus while in law school, I focused my legal education on public interest legal advocacy. Specifically, I have focused my legal work in the field of housing law. As a public interest housing attorney and advocate, I provide legal representation to low-income renters experiencing eviction, substandard housing conditions, and landlord foreclosures. With the average eviction court proceeding in Chicago lasting under two minutes, low-income renters in Chicago are often unable to adequately represent themselves and their interests in a legal environment stacked against them.

This past June, I graduated from law school and accepted a fellowship position with the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. Through my fellowship, I will be developing a medical-legal partnership with a social-safety net hospital in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. With one in six people living in poverty, researchers estimate that each of these individuals has between two and three civil legal needs—defined as social, financial, or environmental problems that can be addressed through civil legal aid—that negatively impact their health. As such, medical-legal partnerships aim to integrate legal representation into patient’s current healthcare network. Thus allowing for early civil legal intervention and improving the efficacy of patients’ current medical treatments plans.

Thank you SOAN for giving me this opportunity to share what a Puget Sound education engenders.

Best,
Kira

[1] Though if you are reading this anywhere between December and April, read as: “Chiberia.”