Alumni Profiles

Rachel Byrd Photo

Rachel Byrd 

Major/Year Graduated: Sociology, 2006

Additional Education: Master of Organizational Leadership from St. Ambrose University.

Work Experience: After completing her master’s degree, Rachel worked as a Program Supervisor for an organization serving adults with disabilities.  She led the restructuring and alignment of six different residential facilities resulting in higher service capacity and higher resident satisfaction rates. After the birth of her twins, Rachel worked for the United States Army when she was specifically hired to assist in the design and implementation of a multidimensional process to meet the requirements of a new Public Health Command initiative.  When she successfully completed her contract with the Army, Rachel transitioned into the healthcare field working in lean management.

Current Position: Rachel joined the University of Iowa Health Care as an Operations Engineer in 2019 and transitioned to the Project Management Office in 2020.

Hobbies/Family: Outside of work, Rachel is a busy wife and mother of three boys.  Raising a son with special needs due to his pre-mature birth, Rachel and her husband founded a sports program designed specifically for special needs youth. 


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Desiree Christensen

Major/Year Graduated: Criminology, 2017

Current Occupation: I am a paralegal for a personal injury law firm, VanDerGinst Law, P.C. There are offices located in Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Chicago. I help individuals who have suffered non-traumatic and traumatic injuries as a result of an accident/incident. My goal is to help injured individuals receive compensation for their injuries.  I maintain anywhere between 75 and 100 pre-litigation and litigation files on a daily basis. I develop a professional relationship with each client to help better understand how their life has been impacted by the accident/incident. I assist an attorney with all pleadings, discovery and trial preparation for the litigation files.  Each day is different, fast paced and a learning experiencing.

How Did your Major (or college in general) Help Prepare you for your Career: When I graduated from the University of Iowa I did not know what career I wanted, but I wanted to help people whether it was criminals, victims, or drug addicts. My first job was as a Legal Assistant for an attorney practicing criminal and family law; which gave me the experience I needed to become a Paralegal. The legal field is fast-paced, stressful, but very rewarding all at the same time. Studying Criminology, Law and Justice taught me how to think objectively, develop a professional relationship with client, be empathetic and fight for what people deserve. Two of my favorite classes were Social Theory and Juvenile Delinquency, which are both theory based classes. These classes taught me how to think critically and analytically, which is helpful when investigating a personal injury accident/incident and fighting for the client.

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Kristin Hansen

NEW YORK, NY, April 21, 2021 – Hearst Television has promoted Kristin Hansen from director, human resources to vice president, human resources. 

“Kristin has been an important member of our team, helping us manage employee relations, motivation and retention during a period that has placed many demands on local journalists,” said Katherine Barnett, Hearst Television senior vice president, human resources.   “The human resources challenges are only likely to grow in the future, but so are the opportunities for people in the industry to thrive, and for HR management programs to help enable them to do so.”

“Kristin has been an instrumental part of our human resources team, especially as we have managed through this last year focused on the health and welfare of our colleagues during the pandemic,” said Hearst Television President Jordan Wertlieb.  “Her instinctive sensibility and employee-first focused approach make her the perfect addition to our leadership team.”

Before moving to Hearst Television in 2016 as director, human resources, Hansen was chief workforce officer for CDS Global, a Des Moines-based subsidiary of Hearst Television parent company Hearst.  At CDS, she was responsible for all human resources functions including benefits, employee relations, recruitment, global training, payroll and occupational health.   She began her career at CDS in 1995 in account management, moving up in various functions before transitioning to training and employee relations.  She was appointed workforce director in 2007 and chief workforce officer in 2010. 

Hansen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Iowa and masters degrees in Adult Learning and Organizational Development and Business Administration from Drake University, as well as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification.   She has served on the Advisory Board of Paragon IT Professionals and on the Volunteer Engagement Cabinet for the United Way of Central Iowa.


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McKenna Raimer 

Major/Year Graduated: Criminology, 2020

Hometown : Grand Junction, CO

Current Position: I am a 1st year law student at The University of Iowa College of Law. Currently, all of my classes are introductions to the broad field of law: Contracts, Property, and Torts. I most enjoy my property law class and plan to tale more classes focusing on property accumulation and rights. I want to study health law and advocacy, and plan to apply for Iowa's MHA program in the next year.

Favorite Class at Iowa:  During my undergrad, I was a triple major and studied Criminology, Medical Anthropology, and Religious Studies. While challenging at times, I encourage students to seek out classes beyond their major(s). My favorite class at Iowa was 'Origins of Human Infectious Disease' taught by Professor Drew Kitchen in the anthropology department. This along with other classes taught by the anthropology faculty inspired my law studies in genetics, disease, and health care. Think about how each field can connect to what you are studying in your major(s)!

Hobbies: I enjoy spending (socially-distant) time with my friends and partner. Because much of my time is spent on my law studies, I appreciate any time I get to read, cook, and binge watch! Downtown Iowa City has many wonderful cafes and restaurants to enjoy on the weekends.


Daisy Photo

Daisy Torres

Major/Year Graduated: Criminology, Law and Justice, Spring 2019

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Current Position: Community Outreach Assistant with the Iowa City Police Department

Skills Gained While at Iowa:  Examining various criminological theories and their real world applications was very useful, as was learning about trauma and victimization. I was able to refine my communication skills though the Practicum in Policing and Internship course. 

What Were your Favorite Classes While a Student in the Department?:  Practicum in Policing and Juvenile Delinquency. The practicum was a great introduction to the hands on aspects of policing. In Juvenile Delinquency we explored theories and discussed real-life applications of the material  - that  made the class interesting and applicable to my current position. 

Hobbies – Pets – Family: With the pandemic, I've taken up reading again. I'm a big fan of historical fiction and nonfiction as well as a good thriller. Luna, a stray my family took in, made her way up to Iowa with my partner and I after I graduated. My family lives in a suburb of Houston – I love to visit them when I have time off in  the Winter. 


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Austin van Loon

Major/Year Graduated: Sociology 2016

Hometown: Ankeny, Iowa

Current Position: Austin is a PhD Candidate in the Sociology Department at Stanford University. He studies affective polarization in the United States, organizational culture, and generally how the meanings of symbols (e.g. coronavirus, racial categories) organize human action. He uses a broad array of computational methods (e.g. text analysis, machine learning, and network analysis) as well as more traditional methods (e.g. experiments, web surveys, and causal inference). For more information on Austin and his research, feel free to check out his website

Honors Thesis Topic/Advisor: For his University of Iowa honors thesis, Austin performed an online experimental study to investigate the meanings and values associated with different sections of the University of Iowa marching band (e.g. percussion, trumpets, clarinets etc.) under the guidance of Professor Alison Bianchi. He specifically sought to understand whether meaning associated with these groups imbued them with status value in line with status construction theory.

Hobbies: When he’s not working on research, Austin likes to play and write music, cook (he used to work for the University, cooking for their catering services as well as for the now-closed restaurant Atlas as a line cook), and watch copious amounts of cable news.


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Antonio Woodard

Major/Year Graduated: Criminology (Theatre minor), 2019

Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Current Position: MSW graduate student, currently doing my advanced practicum at the Iowa City Police Department as the Victims Services Coordinator working with victims of crime. As a Criminology major I learned that in order to fully understand things I often must look at them from a different lens and perspective – micro or macro  - outside of my own.

Favorite Class: Juvenile Delinquency and American Crime

Hobbies: Eating, singing, writing, creating, and performing music. I enjoy anything that involves music. Oh, and living vicariously through dog owners until I have my own someday in the near future!


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Jienian Zhang

Major/Year Graduated: Sociology, 2015

Hometown : Shanghai, China

Current Position:  I am currently pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. My quantitative line of work focuses on health inequity. My dissertation is a school ethnography of multilingual students. 

Honors Thesis Topic/Advisor and Favorite Class:

My honors thesis explored the identity formation of 1.5 generation Americans under the supervision of Prof. Mary Noonan and Prof. Steve Hitlin.  I really enjoyed the social psychology and statistics courses offered by the department.  Outside sociology, the creative writing courses contributed to my personal growth as well. 

Hobbies: I enjoy watching standup comedies and taking walks by the lake. I currently live with my puppy Mushu who has taught me the joy of just sitting on the sidewalk watching cars.