The University of Illinois Springfield campus is home to thousands of Prairie Stars. Of those thousands, there are a few who shine brighter than most. Mackenzi Matthews, an outstanding Latina political science major from Springfield, IL, is one of those shining stars with an awe-inspiring love and dedication for public service.

Having moved to Springfield from Jacksonville, IL, at the age of 5, Mackenzi was quick to claim Springfield as her home. She went on to explain how she attended K-12 in district 186 public schools and went on to graduate from Lincoln Land Community College with her associates. When asked about being a UIS transfer student she added, “I transferred from LLCC, so I see our campus a little bit different than people who have been here for all four years, and I think having an alternative perspective on campus is necessary.” After, she was asked what led her to learn about political science, stating, “I kind of floated through my senior year knowing that I wanted to go to college, but didn’t know what I wanted to study. It wasn’t until the second semester that I was forced into taking AP Government, where I met my enthusiastic teacher, Mr. Volpert, and his enthusiasm for the government inspired me to start my journey as a political science student.”

Mackenzi is involved in a few different organizations on campus, noting the Student Government Association (SGA) and Model Illinois Government (MIG) as ones that take up the majority of her time. She goes on to explain, “I am the parliamentarian for SGA, meaning I make sure we follow our own rules and Robert’s Rules of Order. I also chair the Rules and Constitution committee which is where we work to update and better our Constitution and Bylaws.” When it comes to MIG, “I am the head delegate (very similar to the president of the club). In this club we refine our debate and parliamentary procedure skills to attend a simulation at the end of February where we get to model the Illinois government as legislators.”

When asked about her connection with her Latina heritage, Mackenzi went on to claim, “I am definitely proud to be a Latina. You wouldn’t be able to tell from just looking at me, but my father is Puerto Rican. My heritage has always been a confusing topic within my life. As a white passing Latina, I never knew how I fit into any social situation with my heritage, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that my heritage and my ‘passability’ are two very different things.”

With nowhere to go but up, Mackenzi Matthews has made her love for public service known throughout the UIS community, and has proven to be one of the brightest stars of Orion’s belt. Whether she is traveling to Washington D.C. for an internship or working at the Union, she will continue to make an impact on campus.