Name: Mary Mackenzie
Mary Mackenzie, BA ’14 graduated from the University of Dallas with a double major in English and History. During her time at UD, she was active in student activities and served as the Director of SPUD. After graduation, Mary moved to Washington, DC to work as a program manager at the American Enterprise Institute. She now works in Human Resources at 7-Eleven’s Corporate Office here in Dallas.
Q: As a recent graduate, what advice would you give to upperclassmen about how best to transition out of UD after graduation?
MM: As all-consuming as senior year can be, remember to take some time to think about what you want your life after UD to look like. Professional life looks very different from student life, so it would be wise to spend time asking yourself what you value most and then ordering decisions about post-grad opportunities around those values. I’d also encourage upperclassmen to remember that a first job does not make an entire career path — most likely, you won’t love every aspect of your first job. Identify the parts that fulfill you, and use those elements to determine the next step in your career, whenever that might be.
Q: What drew you to your current work in human resources?
MM: Happenstance! If someone had told me that I would work in this field three years ago, I would have rolled my eyes. While I’m not sure that the HR field will be my permanent professional home, there are many reasons it makes sense for me right now: it gives me an opportunity to understand the component parts of an organization, I’m able to see how corporate culture is shaped and I have the chance to learn about organizational behavior from a big-picture perspective, rather than from a zoomed-in lens of a specific functional group.
Q: You were an English/history double major. What advantages do you think these two disciplines, combined with the Core, have given you in your career?
MM: The work of HR teams requires the ability to understand different perspectives, to ask the right questions and to speak effectively to different audiences — all of which are exercises that UD students go through when writing papers. Studying history creates the discipline of placing specific events in the context of a greater historical narrative, which is analogous to the corporate adage that no one acts in a silo when making decisions. The English major positioned me to appreciate the purpose of component parts in the context of the whole — be that a poem or a novel.
Q: Are there any anecdotes or words of wisdom that you would like to share with both the junior English majors starting their Junior Poet projects and the senior History majors starting their theses?
MM: Junior Poet can seem so intimidating, but don’t let nerves get the best of you! I studied the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, and one of the questions I was asked during my panel was along the lines of “Can you speak about Wales in Thomas’s poetry?” I was so nervous that I completely misunderstood the question – I thought I was being asked about whales, as in the animal, rather than the country. I completely blanked, and I didn’t even realize it until a week after my panel. I shared the story with Dr. Gregory, who responded with a good laugh. While I hope no juniors find themselves in a similar position this year, if you stumble on your panel, pick yourself back up! It’s okay to acknowledge that you can’t answer a question and move past it. The time you have devoted to studying will show through, despite any slip-ups.
For senior history majors — show some love to your primary and secondary sources. Remember that you chose your thesis topic because it sparked your interest, so when you are researching, find joy in the documents you are reading. It is a privilege to dedicate your studies to a topic close to your heart. What you enjoy, you know more intimately. This comes across in your writing, and it also helps long hours spent reading in Braniff feel more worthwhile.