'We really need to make that investment in our young people'
Get to Know … Mackenzie Rutherford
As part of an ongoing series about leaders in the Black community in Rochester, the Rochester in Color sat down with Mackenzie Rutherford to talk about education, writing, travel and her hopes for the future.
Are you originally from the Rochester area? If not, what led you here?
I was born in Minneapolis, but I have lived in Rochester since I was 2 years old. However, I spent 2017-2020 in Claremont, California, for my undergraduate degree, and 2021-22 in London for my master's degree.
What do you like best about Rochester?
I enjoy the safety and calmness of Rochester. Safety is a privilege I took for granted before moving elsewhere.
What changes do you think still need to be made?
There is a lot of room for growth in engaging our youth. There are very few social spaces for young people to build community with each other, specifically for diverse youth. I'm currently working with Project Legacy, an organization in Rochester that helps build a supportive community for diverse youth who might not have a positive support system. I'm inspired by the work Project Legacy is doing, and hope to see more of this work being done in Rochester. I do believe, however, this work goes beyond nonprofit organizations. We also need new social spaces and activities for high schoolers and young adults. Growing up in Rochester, I definitely felt the lack of social spaces outside of school. I still feel this as a young adult, with the lack of activities available, and frankly, the absence of nightlife.
The pandemic complicated the creation of community, especially for youth, and we really need to make that investment in our young people.
What do you do for a living? Why did you choose that for your career?
I recently completed my master's degree in international business at SOAS University of London. As a recent grad, I am still developing my career plans. I've been working with several companies and organizations as a freelance digital content creation, marketing and branding strategist, so I hope to continue that work in some capacity in the future.
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to enter your profession?
As someone who is still figuring everything out, I think it's worth trying as many things as possible. In college, I took classes from many disciplines to help me understand what really makes me light up and engage. The only downside of this is that now I have way too many hobbies!
You're also joining the Rochester in Color team as a contributing writer, how did you become interested in writing?
I have always enjoyed writing, but never really considered it as a career because I imagined a career could be made only by writing long-form pieces of work, like books or lengthy publications. However, when I found a passion for digital content creation and marketing, I realized the power of creative writing in unconventional ways. Marketing is really just the ability to create a story that your ideal customer can engage with. I have been able to lean into my talent as a writer to become a stronger storyteller as a marketer.
Who has been your biggest supporter in pursuing writing?
My family supports me in everything. Specifically, my mom, my older sister, and my dad are always willing to help with proofreading and brainstorming, for anything as small as a cover letter, to anything as big as my 50-page master's degree dissertation.
What obstacles, if any, have you had to face pursuing your chosen career or writing?
Academic writing was difficult for me. I always did well with writing assignments, but the strict formatting and high volume requirements took part of the enjoyment out of it. I would encourage any aspiring writer to take time to write for enjoyment, even if assignments take up a lot of your time. Whether this is through journaling, writing poetry, or making lyrics, take time to remind yourself of why and how you like to write!
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment and what has been your greatest challenge you've had to overcome?
My greatest accomplishment was achieving Distinction (the highest form of honors in the UK) in my master's degree in international business. It was a difficult program, mostly due to the pandemic, but I am very proud that I was still able to push myself to succeed.
On a similar note, the pandemic was a massive challenge for me. I was a junior in college studying abroad when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, so my abroad experience was cut short. I never returned to my undergraduate university until May 2022, when we had our graduation ceremony a year late. Being isolated from friends and family while having to complete the most difficult years of university was very challenging. This time was further complicated by the murder of George Floyd, the untimely deaths of many people affected by COVID, and the passing of my own grandfather due to COVID. Fortunately, I believe we are on the better end of it. However, this time taught me how to show radical care for myself and my community, and I hope to continue doing that.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I love traveling. I've traveled to 14 countries since 2019 and am hoping to add a few more in 2023. My favorites have been Tanzania, Italy and Croatia.
Get to know ... is a feature in Rochester In Color, a special section within the Post Bulletin's website that profiles people of color in our community. Find it at www.postbulletin.com/rochester-in-color . If you know of someone who should be featured, send us an email at email@example.com