Published on March 28, 2022 by Morgan Black  
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In August 2021, Sydney Rennich, a Brock Scholar from Knoxville, Tennessee, was chosen as one of six undergraduate students in the country to participate in the prestigious American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Initiative on Faith & Public Life’s Young Scholars Program. After months of work, Rennich defended her research in front of a panel of AEI scholars and fellows, March 25, 2022, at the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
 
Through the program, she had the opportunity to explore issues of economics, public policy and society from a perspective of the Christian faith. Specifically, Rennich’s research examined the relationship between social capital, institutions and geographic mobility in the United States to determine the forces preventing geographic mobility between socioeconomic groups.
 
Rennich said, “Because one's geographic community is one of the most important influencers of socioeconomic mobility, understanding migratory stagnation is vital for social mobility and economic well-being.”
 
Using regression analysis, she analyzed the effect of positive social networks, encouraged by high social capital levels, on an individual’s willingness to move to neighborhoods with better opportunities, and evaluate the role of institutions in facilitating migration.
 
“Defending my research at AEI this weekend was a truly rewarding, growing and humbling experience,” she said. “This past year of diving into the effect of social capital on reducing barriers to migration and opportunity expansion has taught me so much and getting to present the results to policy experts in the field as an undergraduate student was a rare opportunity.”
 
Samford Professor of Economics Art Carden was her faculty mentor throughout her research process.
 
He said, “It’s a great honor for our students to participate in programs like this where they get to present their own original research to distinguished and influential scholars.”
 
Rennich was the second Samford student in a row to have been selected for the program following Hannah Florence who participated during her senior year, 2020-2021. In addition to an unparalleled real-world experience, Rennich received scholarship dollars to apply toward her tuition.
 
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.