Sophomore sociology major Mackenzie Griffith comes from a family that values education. Though Mackenzie was born and raised in Virginia, her father’s family is originally from Nebraska. Mackenzie decided to attend college at UNL in order to broaden her horizons and see her father’s family’s roots.
“I entered my freshman year as a sociology major. At first, I declared the major just to declare something,” Mackenzie said. “I figured I would eventually change it, but it turned out I really loved sociology, so I stuck with it.”
Before coming to UNL, Mackenzie spent free time volunteering at homeless shelters. Mackenzie said this work is part of her broader interest in using her education to help others.
The summer after her freshman year, Mackenzie began a USTARS (Undergraduate Sociology Teaching and Research Student) project with Dr. Regina Werum. Mackenzie had taken a Race and Ethnicity class with Dr. Werum the previous semester. However, Mackenzie’s primary interest for her research was not race and ethnicity, but rather, veterans’ affairs.
Before working with Mackenzie, Dr. Werum was already conducting research among science majors who had served in the military. Over the summer and into the fall 2016 semester, Mackenzie had been reading current research literature about hiring stigmatization against veterans, especially veterans with mental illness.
After completing her USTARS project, Mackenzie received funding through UCARE (Undergraduate Creative Activities & Research) to further her work with Dr. Werum. Mackenzie will continue her UCARE project into spring 2017, when she will conduct further research and begin data collection.
Mackenzie’s interest in veterans’ affairs stems from her interest in working with transition homes, facilities where disenfranchised people such as homeless individuals or veterans can go to help them reintegrate into society.
“I’m hoping my research can allow me to aid veterans the same way I’ve aided the homeless,” Mackenzie said. “Some people just need help to get their footing in the world.”
Along with helping veterans and the homeless, Mackenzie hopes to aid refugees in the future, possibly in her home state of Virginia, Washington, DC, or Europe.
Story by Lane Chasek
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