Graduating with an Eye for the Greater Good

Erin Monforti will graduate from Lewis College of Human Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in Social and Economic Development Policy this month. Come fall, she will begin study at Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law. And with these achievements, it would appear she has inherited two dominant genes that run in her family: female empowerment and Illinois Tech.

Monforti’s father earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Illinois Tech, and her sister earned a degree in chemical engineering.

“My dad is actually a really proud alumnus—he loves talking about IIT,” Monforti says. “It’s been really an exciting experience to have my whole family backing me up and cheering me on, because IIT is sort of in our family, and it’s been around for a long time with us.”

Yet it is Monforti’s maternal grandmother whom she says has particularly influenced her.

“My grandma raised my mom and my aunt by herself at a time when it was pretty taboo not to have a partner raising children,” she says. “I think her hard work has just bled into the generations of my family that followed her. She’s actually still working, and she just turned 81 in March. I think that has informed all of our work ethic, all of our values, and what we think is important.”

Long interested in law and public policy, Monforti found the perfect degree program to suit her aspirations in Lewis College. She chose to major in social and economic development policy, which she describes as “really dealing with the economic and social elements of political science,” in addition to incorporating intensive research requirements.

Now Monforti is taking what she has learned at Illinois Tech and applying it in an internship in the Village of Skokie’s legal department.

“I really, really like it,” she says of the position, “so when I go to Chicago-Kent I plan on specializing in public interest law. That can be anything from civil rights work to nonprofit work to government work—and with my experience in local government, I have fallen in love with it.

“There is something about localities and communities that is so inspiring—that on such a micro level people really can work together and make things better,” Monforti says. “I think in our climate right now it’s hard to see that, but at the local level it really can be a beautiful and inspiring thing.”

Outside of family influences, Monforti says the city that surrounds her has equally shaped her. Chicago, her lifelong home, has most informed her career choices.

“In addition to its beauty and its wonder and its amazing people, I’ve also seen the discrepancies that exist,” Monforti says. “There are a lot of inequalities, and Chicago is a very segregated city. I think just being steeped in that my whole life has made me very aware of the impact one person can have, even in riding the CTA or in your daily interactions with people. [I want] to capitalize on that, and make a career out of advocating for people who perhaps aren’t given the same opportunities or don’t have the same experience that I do.”