Student Spotlights

Brian Gatter


Majors: Economics/Sociology
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Why Soc as a major?

I think one of the reasons I chose Sociology as a major is that I am fascinated with the structural components of an individual life and the extreme relativity that accompanies that. What I mean by that is that I find it fascinating to think about how different contexts, either on the micro or macro level, can completely structure the life of an individual or even a cohort of people. In conjunction with that, I appreciate the humanism and empathy that a discipline like Sociology gives me. In order to study many topics in Sociology, one must examine the complex dynamics that goes into every situation and context. I think when one participates in such fastidious exploration of the individual, it can lead to a more profound and complete understanding of how and why people make or do not make certain decisions.   

Favorite or Most Interesting Course in Soc:

Either Urban America or my Sociology Seminar.

Extra-curricular Activities at ND:

I have worked extensively with the Center for Social Concerns. I am also a part of Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations. I worked for a time as a research assistant and as as an equipment manager for the football team.

Future Plans/Career Goals: I will probably do some sort of post-grad service, but for the most part I just hope I can find something that I am endlessly fascinated by. Also something that encourages goofin' around.


MacKenzie (Kenzie) Isaac

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Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
Majors: Sociology, Latino Studies (Minor in Data Science)

Why Soc as a major?

Sociology not only pervades every discipline, but every aspect of our lives. It lies at the intersection of every relationship we form and every form of knowledge we pursue. I am interested in how the language inaccessibility of most public health policy and research stifles health literacy rates in low-income, urban, and minority communities. At the root of this ongoing issue of language inaccessibility is the lack of a sociological perspective - namely, an incomplete understanding of a social structure that has been built to keep people on the margins from achieving literacy in any form. Without my array Sociology courses, I would not be able to take a fully informed, evidence-driven, and context-aware approach towards addressing and mitigating this issue.

Favorite or Most Interesting Course in Soc:

I loved Population Dynamics with Dr. Williams. Also, I am currently in a Social Networks class with Dr. Hachen, and the course content is really fascinating. Both Social Demography and Network Analysis are key in understanding what types of people are key to transmitting information in our society, who has the most/highest quality access to this information, and what agency looks like across different identity groups as a result. Each of these points are highly pertinent to my research and career interests.

Extra-curricular Activities at ND:

I am on the Moreau Student Advisory Council; right now, I am helping to develop the content of the Cultural Competency modules. Through the Kellogg Institute's International Scholars Program, I am a research assistant to Dr. Karen Richman in the Institute for Latino Studies, and I am also a research assistant in the Healthy Places ND Lab, at team that explores the influence of the built environment on our health behaviors and outcomes. I have participated in multiple seminars through the Center for Social Concerns, and this semester I have the privilege of co-leading the U.S. Healthcare: Policy and Poverty seminar. During my sophomore year, I served the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being (McWell) as their Undergraduate Programming Assistant, and I have continued my involvement with McWell as a member of the Healthy Campus Coalition. Since my freshman year, I have worked on a student Task Force that oversees the content and general function of the "Notre Dame Community", an online mentorship platform created by the Office of Outreach and Engagement Recruitment.

Future Plans/Career Goals:  I hope to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and receive my PhD in Social and Behavioral Sciences. My dream is to return to my hometown to work as an academic researcher and community health educator.


Maria Ritten


Majors: Sociology and Political Science (Minor in Poverty Studies)
Hometown: Oak Park, Illinois

Why Soc as a major?

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the world around me, always wanting to understand it as best as I can. Although this consisted of simpler elements of life when I was younger, the same basic principle has remained constant for me: I want to learn about the world. Sociology has been the perfect discipline to explore this passion. Through Sociology I can learn about social problems or theories regarding the way that humans interactions work. Sociology enables me to understand the world around me on a deeper level, giving me the tools necessary to combat some of the social issues that intrigue me. My studies, while giving me a better understanding of society, have also helped me to learn about parts of myself as an individual, which has further deepened my love for Sociology.   

Favorite or Most Interesting Course in Soc:

Foundations of Sociological Theory

Extra-curricular Activities at ND:

I am involved with the Center for Social Concerns, College Mentors for Kids, the Class Council, KiND Club, Hall Council, and, of course, inter-hall and intramural flag football.

Future Plans/Career Goals: Nothing is solid as of now, but I am thinking that after graduation I will do some form of service for one or two years before going to graduate school. We will see if that ends up happening, though!