Undergraduate Alumni Spotlight: Natalie Veldhouse
Since graduating with a BA in Sociology and Ethics and Public Policy in 2015, alumna Natalie Veldhouse has been using the skills she acquired as a sociology major to conduct research on food insecurity in her position at the Crisis Center of Johnson County. Below are Natalie’s answers to our questions about her experience as a sociology major at UI and her new job.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your work since graduating from The University of Iowa?
A: I work as the Community Food Security VISTA at the Crisis Center of Johnson County. Most of my work involves the Johnson County Hunger Task Force, a group of local government officials, nonprofit leaders and others who are invested in alleviating food insecurity in our county. During my AmeriCorps VISTA service year, I have worked on various community-based research projects in an attempt to better understand the state of food insecurity in Johnson County and to identify barriers people face in accessing food. I helped develop and administer a survey of 473 food pantry clients throughout the county. The task force has also gathered data using key informant interviews and focus groups. Right now we are developing a community-wide plan for different interventions the county could pursue to address barriers to food access based on the data we have gathered. Soon I will work to implement the plan and take measures to ensure our work will sustain after my service year is completed.
Q: What is your favorite thing about your job?
A: My favorite thing about my job is my ability to conduct research on local social problems and work collaboratively with other community organizations in creating change on a local level based on our research findings.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences as a sociology student at the University of Iowa and how these have influenced your work?
A: My experiences as a sociology student at Iowa were unique because of my involvement in the Sociology Club. During my senior year I was elected secretary of the club, then Vice President my senior year. Because of the connections I made through the Sociology Club, I was able to work for Professor Hitlin as an undergraduate research assistant. I presented research posters based on his work and my thesis at the Fall Undergraduate Research Festival, Research in the Capitol, and the Iowa Sociological Association’s annual conference. My favorite course during my undergrad was called “Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy” taught by Professor Bruch. The course peaked my interest in researching poverty, social policy and social mobility. During my senior year, I earned credit for the Social Services Organization Internship offered through the sociology department. I worked as an intern for the Crisis Center of Johnson County on the Hunger Task Force. At the end of my senior year I was offered an AmeriCorps VISTA position to continue my work on the task force.
Q: What are your long-term professional plans?
A: I am in the process of applying to master of social work programs. I’m interested in pursuing a career where I can conduct high-quality community-based research that can be published in academic articles and used to create local social change. I could see myself going back to school later in my career to pursue a PhD in sociology.