Sociology Alumna Empowers Women

An alumna from the University of Central Florida is using her people skills to support women in her community.

Mónica Méndez, Ph.D., ’02, ’08, was honored on March 3 as a 2016 College of Sciences Outstanding AlumKnight award recipient by the Department of Sociology at UCF. Méndez currently serves as the CEO of Dress for Success Pittsburgh, an organization that focuses on empowering women through financial independence.

Méndez received her master’s degree in criminal justice from UCF in 2002, and her doctorate degree in sociology in 2008. Since then, she has remained an active member of the community. She has volunteered as a guest speaker for sociology classes and events and as a researcher working on projects with her former colleagues. She is also a faithful fan of UCF athletics, and returns for games when she can.

UCF Victim Services is the University’s on-campus counseling center for anyone affected by any type of abuse. It also educates about and advocates for the elimination of violence – just like Méndez does now at her job. She interned with the organization while she was a student, and credits it with giving her a foundation for her career.

She also said that the Departments of Sociology and Criminal Justice prepared her well for her transition into the workforce.

“The departments both had great courses, like statistics, which gave me the tools to become a real agent of change,” Méndez said. “These skills allowed me to view the world through a unique point of view, from both an academic sense and applied sense. My degrees have been invaluable to my success.”

Méndez said that she chose the UCF Department of Sociology for her doctoral degree because its program deals specifically with domestic abuse. Her interest in women’s rights and advocacy drew her to the degree, and the faculty convinced her further.

“After doing research I realized what a great team of professors the department had,” Méndez said. “They were at the top of the field in which I was interested. I know I made the right choice in going to UCF.”

Méndez worked as the managing editor for an academic journal while she was a student. She recalled many fond memories at a local Mexican restaurant with her fellow doctoral students – they made it a tradition to get lunch there. She’s always been a huge fan of UCF sports as well. She and her husband traveled to Arizona to see the football team compete in the Fiesta bowl in January of 2014.

Méndez now works at Dress for Success in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company’s goal is to help women by providing the professional tools they need to succeed at jobs. Méndez said that the people she has met have been the best part of her career.

“My job allows me to not just run a company, but run a company that really changes lives,” Méndez said. “It’s been a privilege to have worked with and met so many great women and men in the field, and those are my greatest memories.”

UCF has served as a vehicle to launch Méndez into her life of serving others. She shared her experienced words of advice for current students and alumni.

“Enjoy the people you meet along the way,” she said. “They make the journeys we take memorable and worthwhile.”

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