Education Access and Inequities; Family and Crime; Social Policy; Community Organization and Mobilization
Jessica Benitez is an undergraduate Honors Student at George Mason University double majoring in Sociology with a concentration in Inequality and Social Change, and Criminology, Law and Society. Her research interests are education policy and inequities, with a focus on first-generation learners and school-to-deportation pipeline; as well as gun violence and prevention, family and crime with a focus on parental incarceration. Jessica is looking to work directly with social policy at a local or state level. In her research, she emphasizes community organizing in order to strengthen people's capacity to work together and advocate for themselves.
Jessica has utilized internships and work experience throughout her undergraduate experience at George Mason to gain hands-on skills on conducting research and formulate evidence-based reporting. In the summer of 2022, Jessica traveled to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on behalf of the National Science Foundation as a Crime Analytics Intern. She played an active role in conducting meaningful research on gun violence prediction, and authored publication-quality manuscripts on typologies for high-fatality mass shooters by finding consistent demographics of shooters. Through learning and practicing coding, cleaning data, and designing research inquiries, she was able to formulate policy recommendations to the local governance. She presented her research in-state at UNC Charlotte’s research conference and in Chicago, Illinois at the 2022 Midwestern Criminal Justice Association’s (MCJA) annual meeting.
Most recently, Jessica was an intern at United Communities Progreso and Literacy Center based in Alexandria, Virginia. She collaborated with the Honors College to receive a placement at this center where she could serve underrepresented populations. In this position, Benitez worked as a consultant in the office. Using her abilities as a fluent Spanish-speaker, she would aid in translating legal documents, processes, and services for the immigration lawyer on staff. In the same capacity, she would navigate guests through the center's various immigration services including English as a Second Language and Citizenship courses. This opportunity provided her with the setting to work towards community organizing and advocate for the immigrant population in Alexandria, Virginia.
Benitez is a member of the Latino Student Association, Honors College Connects, and the Public Sociology Association. Here, she seeks development skills, creating social experiences, and meeting like-minded individuals. Outside of academics, Jessica serves as president and captain of George Mason's Club Field Hockey team. Here, she works directly with the club sports administration at George Mason to maintain the experience and engagement of Club Field Hockey.
She currently works as a Research Assistant at the Institute for Immigration Research. Jessica is inspired by her Salvadoran heritage and seeks to be a contributor to the advancement of her community. She is a first-generation college student. Her expected graduation date is May 2024.