#ElonGrad 2021 spotlight: Mackenzie Martinez, anthropology and women’s, gender & sexualities studies

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2021 from a wide array of disciplines.

Elon College Fellow and Periclean Scholar Mackenzie Martinez ’21 was recognized by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Women’s, Gender and Sexualities Studies program as an outstanding member of the Class of 2021.

Mackenzie Martinez '21
Mackenzie Martinez ’21

A double-major in anthropology and Spanish, she chose her studies out of fascination with human diversity and cultures and because of a passion for issues facing Latinx populations in the U.S. Martinez is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Delta Pi and Lambda Alpha honor societies, and served on Elon’s Honor Board for four years.

Earlier this semester, she was recognized at the Gala Latina for attaining the highest GPA in the senior class.

How did you choose your undergraduate research topic?

My thesis is titled “Rituals of Womanhood,” and explores the connections, differences, and cultural implications of Bat Mitzvahs and Quinceañeras. I chose this topic because it directly relates to my own identity of being both Jewish and Mexican and how this cultural intersectionality has impacted my perceptions of my own womanhood and identities. I have presented my research at the National Conferences for Undergraduate Research, State of North Carolina Conference for Undergraduate Research, and Elon’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum.

What’s been your proudest accomplishment at Elon?

I think my proudest accomplishment has just been taking advantage of all the opportunities that have come my way and enjoying them to the fullest. Things like getting to present research at an international conference, joining different students clubs (like LHU), being involved in lots of different offices on campus (residence life, El Centro, the Center for Design Thinking), and taking advantage of all the wonderful speakers that we have each semester.

How did your relationships with mentors and professors shape your experience?

I have had so many wonderful mentors throughout my time at Elon who helped me grow into the person I am. It feels impossible to name just a few but I think they know who they are.  I’ve always found that Elon is really unique in the way that it looks at student-professor relationships. First with the small classes, you know that your professor will always know you and often this gives you the chance to build a relationship with them outside of the classroom. These connections have helped me find on-campus opportunities (like research and Periclean Scholars) and helped me hone my own academic interests. Through these relationships, I found that I have an intense love for learning. These professors helped foster that by encouraging me to look deeper into issues and by meeting with me outside of class to talk about them.

What are your future plans?

I am part of the inaugural cohort of the Avodah Jewish Fellowship in San Diego, California. Through this, I have a placement at Al Otro Lado, a nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian and legal aid to migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego.

In terms of a field that I want to land in long term, I think it will be doing nonprofit work with marginalized communities. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about and that I can’t wait to get involved in next year through my fellowship. I could also see myself returning to academia at some point for a master’s or doctorate. Like I said, I am a lifelong and passionate learner so I’m sure that I will feel called to go back to school at some point.

What advice would you give future Elon students?

I would tell future students to not be afraid to take risks and to get involved in things that inspire or excite them. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people for support or friendship.

What’s your favorite Elon tradition?

I have absolutely loved attending the weekly Polyglot lunches put on by the World Languages Living-Learning Community. Not only is it a great place to practice my Spanish, but I have met so many friends and mentors through this program who have positively shaped my Elon experience.