Student Spotlight June 2018

    Shelly Isaacs

    Shelly Isaacs




    Shelly Isaacs studies in the Applied Sociology PhD Department and is currently completing coursework. Before attending the University of Louisville, Shelly achieved a Master’s of Arts in Sociology of religion from Baylor University, which was preceded by a B.A. in History at Palm Beach Atlantic University.


    “Shelly is growing into a first class applied researcher--one who uses research to create social justice and change. Her work with Dr. Lauren Heberle on urban community development and affordable housing in Louisville will inform social policy that advances greater equity in community benefits across Louisville and other similar cities.”

    -Dr. Patricia Gagne



    1. What brought you to the University of Louisville?

    I had been living and working in Louisville for two years when I applied. I wanted to study and work locally to help make a difference for the community that I have come to care about. I was excited about the Applied Sociology program at the University of Louisville because it gave me the opportunity to learn how to turn my knowledge into actions that can contribute to other people’s lives.

    2. What has been your favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL?

    As a graduate research assistant, I am currently working for the Center for Environmental Policy and Management. It has been an incredible opportunity to learn about issues like affordable housing and equitable property redevelopment, and to be part of research that is explicitly intended to be useful to the local community. The university’s vibrant transdisciplinary group (Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research) provides additional opportunities for me to learn from and work with students and professors from other disciplines. This kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration is invaluable, and allows us to use every tool at our disposal to work toward a more equitable society.

    3. What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?

    Finding balance in life is certainly a challenge in grad school. It’s hard to make everything work with finances, family, health, and other non-school parts of life that don’t slow down just because we are in school. I try to give myself a break when my body needs it, even if it means my work isn’t perfect. I try to support other students when I am able. And I reach out to my professors when I need some extra accommodation to keep up with this grad school balancing act. It takes a supportive group to get through grad school, and for that reason I’m very thankful for my department!

    4. Family life:

    I am incredibly lucky to have my husband, Johnny, on this journey. He is an indomitable force of good and positivity in the world. He keeps me grounded, and he keeps me laughing.

    Fun Facts:

    A talent you have always wanted: Storytelling
    Favorite book: Oathbringer, Brandon Sanderson
    Favorite quote: “Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” –Paolo Friere, The Politics of Education
    Role Model: My parents
    Favorite Vacation Destination: San Francisco Bay Area
    If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? Baking something