Class of 2024 Spotlight: Mackenzie Lookingland

Student-Athlete, Gators Teach President, Resident Advisor, and Future Educator Reflects on 91Ӱ Experience
Mackenzie Lookingland

By: Erik Pedersen, Content Strategy Director

Class of 2024 Spotlights

BALTIMORE – Mackenzie Lookingland will be graduating early from 91Ӱ on May 22, needing only three years to complete the undergraduate portion of a program which will allow her to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in elementary education.

Despite the shortened timeframe, Lookingland has filled her schedule with more activities than most students could manage in a typical four-year experience. She has played three sports at 91Ӱ, helping women’s soccer earn a pair of postseason berths and playing No. 1 singles and doubles for a tennis squad which reached the playoffs for the first time in over 15 years.

Lookingland was also vice president of 91Ӱ’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, president of Gators Teach (a Maryland State Education Association Aspiring Educators chapter), and a Resident Advisor in Doyle Hall. In recognition of all her efforts on campus, she was the recipient of the University’s Legacy Award at Notre Dame Day in February, an honor presented to a senior who left an enduring mark on the university through leadership, innovation, and commitment to creating a culture of care and inclusion for all students.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree at 91Ӱ’s 2024 Commencement Ceremony at the Baltimore Convention Center, Lookingland will immediately begin graduate school this summer to complete the final year of the School of Education’s BA/MAT program. Learn more about her 91Ӱ experience in the first of several Class of 2024 spotlights leading up to commencement:

What were you looking for in your college search, and what was it that drew you to Notre Dame?

I wanted to go to a school where could live on campus, but also where I could also go home as much as I wanted. I have a good relationship with my parents, and I have two younger sisters. I didn’t want to miss out on things that they were doing, and I wanted to be close enough where my parents could come watch my games.

I knew that I could at least play soccer at Notre Dame, and I knew the education program had a really good reputation. I also took dual enrollment classes in high school. I came here with 33 credits, which is allowing me to graduate a year early. I’m actually doing the School of Education’s five-year program in four.

It’s super rare to be able to get a bachelor’s and a master’s degree within four years. It normally takes six to do that in education, so in the end it just made sense to come to Notre Dame. It made the most sense academically and athletically, and it’s close to home.

Mackenzie Lookingland and Marylou Yam

Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in education?

I’ve known that I wanted to be a teacher my entire life. I’ve never thought of anything else. When I was in high school, I started volunteering at the elementary school across the street. That helped confirm what I wanted to do even more. I was working in a fourth grade classroom, and I’ve always said that I wanted to do fourth or fifth grade – those older elementary school ages.

I started substitute teaching last year, and that has given me even more experience at all levels. I’ve done high school, middle school, and all of the different elementary school grades. Recently, I got a job as a long-term substitute in a fifth grade classroom which will go through the end of the school year. I’m super excited for that – I really like working with that age group.

Did teachers influence you a lot growing up? What was it that drew you to the teaching profession?

A lot of my family works in education. My mom is an occupational therapist in Baltimore County, but she works at a school. I have an aunt who is a reading specialist, I have another aunt who is a fifth grade teacher in Baltimore County, and I have a couple of other cousins who work in Baltimore County schools. My grandmother was a librarian at a school. My great-grandmother never had a full-time job, but she occasionally worked as a substitute teacher.

That was definitely part of it, just growing up around so many education professionals, but I also had great teachers growing up. I went to Catholic school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel for preschool through eighth grade. I had a really strong relationship with my teachers there. It was a strict school setting, but I liked that because it helped us learn. Being able to have those relationships with my teachers in a small-class setting made me to want to be a teacher even more. I saw the different activities they were doing with us, and I could see myself doing it with students when I grew up.

What has your experience been like as a student-athlete?

My first year of soccer was great. I got pretty good playing time, and I made a lot of good friends that I’m still close with today. We were pretty successful that year. My second year was a bit rough. We had some injuries and played shorthanded at the end, but we were still having fun with each other. This past year, though, was so much better. We had a pretty big roster, we did well, and we made playoffs again.

Mackenzie Lookingland with her soccer teammates

As for tennis, when I got here we didn’t even have a team coming out of the COVID pandemic. I started asking around to see if anyone would be interested, and we got the bare minimum of four people. We played with four all season when you’re supposed to have at least six. The following year we had a full roster, and this year we earned the second seed in our conference, making the playoffs for the first time in a long time. It’s been very cool to help restart the program and see how much it’s grown over the last three years.

Basketball was a sport that I never thought I would play again. During my first semester of soccer, I was in study hall and I started talking to a girl on the basketball team. I told her that I had grown up playing, and she was like, ‘Do you want to play?’ I ended up joining for one year as a walk-on. I didn’t get much playing time, because they had recruited their starters, but I was a good practice player. I did what they needed me to do, and it was a really fun experience overall. I’ve been able to make friends in so many different groups. I don’t think I would have been able to do that if it wasn’t for my experience in athletics.

Are there any specific memories that stand out from your athletic experiences at Notre Dame?

I really liked the bus trips. We get a coach bus if we travel more than three hours away from campus. Even though they’re far and sometimes a pain to go on, I thought they were fun, because we got to spend all that time together as a team. During my second year of soccer, we played at a school that was pretty close to New York City. We won the game 1-0 – I scored the only goal on a penalty kick – and after the game, our coach took us to New York. We had dinner, and we got to spend an hour or two walking around Times Square and exploring different shops. It was an extremely long day – we got back to campus around three in the morning – but it was so worth it.

Talk about some other extracurriculars you’ve been involved with at 91Ӱ. How have they improved your overall experience here?

This year, I was vice president of our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), president of Gators Teach, and a Resident Advisor (RA) in Doyle Hall.

I started as a treasurer for SAAC last year, and I’ve become way more involved planning our different events as the vice president. We’ve done two pool parties this year, which were really fun and well-attended. We recently had a soccer event with the African Student Association, we’ve done a volleyball tournament, we’ve done lots of different things throughout the year. It’s helped me connect with different athletes from other teams that I hadn’t played on.

Gators Teach wasn’t super active when I got here. Education is a great program, but a lot of our classes are online, so a lot of education students don’t live on campus. That’s beneficial in a lot of ways, because teachers who are already working full time can get a degree, but as an undergraduate who lives on campus and is trying to spearhead an organization, it’s kind of difficult when no one is here. I had to get creative. I asked some of my friends in education if they wanted to form an executive board and try to help. After not getting great attendance previously, we decided to open our events up to everybody, not just education majors. After doing that, we had a mug painting in the fall and around 40 people came out. That was an incredible turnout compared to previous years. I think meeting that making that decision to open it to everybody is what turned the corner for us.

As for being an RA, it’s great. I’m the RA for the guys floor in Doyle. It’s me and 40 guys, so it has its ups and downs, but they’re fun. They’re all really good kids, and they listen for the most part.

Did your extracurriculars lead to any unique opportunities?

I was able to go to the National Education Association Conference in Orlando last year. That was a crazy experience. It was completely paid for. I stayed with people from different colleges in Maryland, and I also got to meet people from schools all over the country. We attended different workshops on education. We talked about burnout and self-care, and we learned about different teaching techniques. I never would have had the opportunity to attend that conference if it wasn’t for my role with Gators Teach. That was a really cool experience.

Mackenzie Lookingland in Orlando

What is next for you after graduation?

I have an agreement with Baltimore County Public Schools. They’re helping me pay for school, and in return I’ll work for them for at least three years after I graduate. It’s nice for me because I was more than likely going to work in Baltimore County anyway. After I finish my master’s year, I’ll apply to Baltimore County to be a general education classroom teacher – hopefully at the fourth or fifth grade level.

Is there any message that you’d like to give to 91Ӱ students who are still working their way through college?

Be active on campus. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, because people will respond when you do. Go to Gator Alley when there’s an activity, or go to some sporting events. Try out new things. High school can be weird because a lot of high schools have set standards and norms, but you can change who you are in college. Just putting yourself out there, being active on campus, and really trying to create the person that you want to be is really important when you’re in college, and this is the perfect place to do it. Every opportunity is here.




Established in 1895, 91Ӱ (91Ӱ) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.

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