Interview with Yael Uziel, Class of 2019


Yael Uziel



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Oral history interview with Illinois State University alum Yael Uziel, Class of 2019. The interview was conducted by David Adelman and Jack DuFrane, then students in Dr. Reecia Orzeck’s class Geography 375: Qualitative Research Design and Methods of Human Geography.

Uziel begins by detailing her background; she was born in Israel and moved to America in first grade, initially to Memphis, Tennessee, due to her parents' work in medical research, and later to Illinois for middle and high school. She initially pursued environmental science in college but shifted to geography after being introduced to the RESET (Race, Ethnicity, and Social Equity in Tourism) Initiative by a visiting faculty member. Uziel reflects on her involvement in various student organizations at ISU, including Capoeira Club, Geography Club, Chabad, Meditation Club, and Adventure Club. She fondly recalls dorm life at Watterson Hall, emphasizing the convenience of living on campus and the camaraderie with fellow students. Uziel discusses her reliance on public transportation and its importance in her daily life. She worked at Facility Services and as a geography tutor during her undergraduate years, mainly for financial reasons, but she found value in her connections with colleagues and professors.

Transitioning to grad school at the University of Tennessee, Uziel shares her experiences with the application processes, as well as the support she received from Geography Department faculty in preparing for the transition. Uziel reflects on the impact of COVID-19 on her graduate studies, expressing how it affected her enjoyment of the program and the challenges she faced in adapting her thesis due to travel restrictions.

Uziel delves into her engagement with Chabad, an organization which provides support for Jewish students. She describes how Chabad’s rabbi and his family created a welcoming environment for her, offering home-cooked meals and a sense of community. Despite feeling supported by Chabad, Uziel acknowledges the challenges faced by Jewish students due to the political climate surrounding the 2016 election, recounting an incident where someone in her dormitory carved a swastika on the door to her room.

Uziel shares her observations on campus activism following the election of Donald Trump, particularly regarding women's rights and immigration. She discusses her involvement in rallies and petitions advocating for women's health resources and other causes. Uziel also reflects on her experiences with campus safety and police interactions. She recounts instances where she witnessed or experienced negative encounters with law enforcement and expresses concerns about the lack of resources and support for students facing safety issues. She describes the efforts that her friend group made to look out for other female students and emphasizes the importance of solidarity and support, particularly in navigating difficult situations.

The conversation concludes with Uziel's positive memories of her time at ISU, including her participation in geography-related field trips and the friendships she formed with peers and professors. She highlights the transformative experiences of studying abroad and engaging with diverse communities, both locally and internationally.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; Uziel’s background: 00:00-03:25
  • Selecting geography as a major; RESET Initiative: 03:25-09:23
  • Participation in extracurricular organizations: 09:23-16:11
  • Living in Watterson Towers: 16:11-18:59
  • Using the Bloomington-Normal bus system: 18:59-21:47
  • Impact of COVID on graduate studies: 21:47-25:00
  • Applying to graduate schools: 25:00-29:15
  • Working as a student: 29:15-32:23
  • Chabad; Jewish identity; anti-Semitic vandalism incident: 32:23-41:30
  • Activism and political climate surrounding 2016 election: 41:30-48:08; 50:24-54:19
  • Places to relax and socialize around campus: 48:08-50:24
  • Safety in Bloomington-Normal; interactions with police; looking out for other women: 0:54:19-1:00:21
  • Privacy and sexual assault awareness emails: 1:00:21-1:02:39
  • Trips to Japan and Chicago with Geography Department; conclusion: 1:02:39-1:08:07

Interview with Yael Uziel, Class of 2019