Professor and Alumna Win Awards, Collaborate on Project

Dr. Mackenzi Huyser ’98, professor and chair of Trinity’s social work department, and alumna Laura Zumdahl ’02, are the recent recipients of awards relevant to their fields.

The fellow alumni and former co-workers at Trinity have also been collaborating on a project that will give Huyser’s students experiential learning. At the same time, the project will provide Zumdahl, associate executive director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), with valuable information she can use to better serve clients.

Sociology and social work majors at Trinity who are taking a course in research will work in small groups assigned to a program area at CGLA. These areas include family law, housing law, criminal defense, criminal records, and the volunteer program. Students will research the professional literature in their program area, propose a methodology to conduct further research, analyze data collected by CGLA, and prepare a final report to present to agency representatives.

“It is my hope that the project will not only allow students hands-on experience in the research process but assist CGLA in their goals and reinforce the importance of research in our professional work,” said Huyser.

HuyserDr. Mackenzi Huyser ’98
Dr. Mackenzi Huyser has received the National Association of Social Workers’ Illinois Emerging Leader Award for demonstrating exemplary leadership, expertise, and dedication to the profession in Illinois.

In 2000, Huyser was asked to lead Trinity’s effort to develop an accredited social work program, which received accreditation in 2005 and was reaffirmed in 2009 by the Council on Social Work in Education. Huyser has served as the department chair since its inception.

Huyser is seeing continued growth in the program and said, “Because our program prepares students for community-centered generalist practice we expect that they will have the opportunity to serve many different populations and in many different settings. A student who graduates from Trinity’s BSW program is a well-prepared and competent practitioner.”   

Laura Zumdahl ’02
ZumdahlAlumna Laura Zumdahl was named a Chicago Community Trust Emerging Fellow for 2010 and received nearly $30,000 to fund her professional development plan studying innovation and design thinking in nonprofit organizations.

In 2005, Zumdahl returned to Trinity to serve as the social work department’s project coordinator. She left in 2007 to accept her current position as associate executive director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid, which provides free legal services to over 5,000 low income residents of Chicago each year. She will be completing her doctoral work this spring.

“My time at Trinity provided a comprehensive education but also challenged me to integrate my faith into my vocation,” said Zumdahl. “It was through that experience that I found how much I loved the profession of social work and working in nonprofit organizations. That discovery shaped my calling and career.”