MA in Higher Education and Student Development

Benjamin Mackey

Benjamin Mackey

2020 Dean's Challenge Award Recipient

My path to graduate school has not always been a smooth one, but it has instilled within me values and interests that continue to shape my emerging research agenda. After leaving high school with a three-year “alternative diploma,” I landed in community college, where I discovered a passion for learning and research that had been absent in my troubled high school career. 

My time as a transfer student at Mason and, now, as a master’s student in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society has given me tremendous opportunity to express this passion – I have been able to take elective courses in the PhD curriculumto pursue scholarly publishing opportunities both inside and outside of my required coursework, and to participate in impactful work being done by some of the prestigious faculty here. For example, as a research assistant at the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence (ACE!), I work on projects that seek to create or evaluate measures to promote a more equitable, treatment-oriented environment for people involved in the criminal legal system. Similarly, in my independent research, I am conducting an ethnographic study with a nonprofit reentry organization serving and advocating for people returning from incarceration. 

By choosing to spend a great deal of time in a reentry organization, I am able to participate in additional community service activities beyond the project itself. Thus, in these projects and more, I aim to blend community service with rigorous scholarship, thereby crafting a research agenda which fundamentally seeks to advance social justice.