Closer to home, she worked with UVM’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program (LAPP) which provides college courses for inmates, giving incarcerated citizens the tools they need to successfully reintegrate into society. Burgess participated in informal volleyball games with women inmates in the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. She also sat next to them in a unique class consisting of UVM undergraduates and inmates.

“They (the inmates) had a lot of insights into how the system works and how important support mechanisms like mental health service and community centers are for successful re-entry into society.”

Burgess completed ethnographic research at UVM, resulting in her honors thesis “Please Us or Fight Us”: Masculinity and Social Control in a Drug Court, which she hopes to publish with the help of her advisor Professor Eleanor Miller.

Her UVM sociology experience, she says, provided a framework for viewing crime less as an accumulation of individual acts but as outcomes from factors like systematic racism.

“If the framework fits—and it really did for me—you learn how to view the world through a sociological lens,” Burgess said. “In my freshman year our professors taught us to use our ‘sociological imagination’ to see underlying structural patterns in social systems. By my senior year, I thought of it as a muscle you can flex.”