Mackenzie Thrower (’14, MA ’17) finds fulfillment every day in his work as the Nutrition Program Manager for the Crim Fitness Foundation. He didn’t always plan on serving the community through food education and programming; he thought he would join the military and work in the State Department. Mackenzie’s interest in nutrition education started with a chance discovery in a graduate economics course at the University of Michigan-Flint.
While earning his MA in Social Sciences, Mackenzie took Dr. Adam Lutzker’s course ECN 566: The Global Economy. Tasked with exploring a particular sector of the economy, Mackenzie chose food & agriculture. It wasn’t long before he saw the implications of food issues in almost everything he studied. In a sociology class dealing with equity, concepts like food justice spurred his interest.
“We talked about how the Black Panthers had a program for food access. I found that interesting. I started realizing how entrenched food is with power,” Mackenzie says.
After completing his master’s coursework, Mackenzie began work with the national non-profit Food Corps, embedded in the Crim Fitness Foundation. Thanks to that experience and the problem-solving abilities nurtured during his UM-Flint education, Mackenzie was offered a full-time position and eventual promotion with the foundation.
Mackenzie sees the interdisciplinary education found in programs like the MA in Social Sciences as invaluable in both his professional and personal life. “The program draws on sociology, international relations, history … it spans many traditional disciplines that contribute to a well-rounded professional,” he says.
Mackenzie developed that mindset as a UM-Flint undergraduate, selecting the interdisciplinary major of Spanish and International Studies.
“Having a broad education allows me to engage clinicians, community members, government officials … I’m never going to work with just one discipline, so I need to be able to speak to many different subjects.”
In his position at the Crim Fitness Foundation, Mackenzie oversees the food education and programming for close to 20 Flint-area schools. He encourages his coordinators to be accessible role models for students, setting an example to be active with the process of growing and cooking healthy foods. He thinks accessible educators and mentors with whom you can build a relationship are crucial, and he found that during his time at UM-Flint.
“The relationship I had with my professors is honestly one of the biggest draws of the program,” Mackenzie says. “You’re on a first-name basis with your professors, I could drop by Adam’s office today and talk with him for a half-hour. You don’t get that at many institutions.”
Mackenzie found an experience at UM-Flint that allowed him to explore complex issues through the powerful lens of the arts & sciences. Because of the university’s community-centeredness, he was able to take his learning into practice, and found a career that nourishes his commitment to positive social change. UM-Flint contributed not only his professional toolkit but also his professional desire. In his words, “I found my ‘why,’ and that’s what motivates me each day to see changes through in the long term.”