Graduation Year: 2011
Why did you choose Anthropology?
My father has told me, since my early high school years, that if he were to go back to school, he would do so at Wheaton College to study Anthropology. Even before I made a decision as to where I would pursue my undergraduate studies, he noted how unique it would be to be trained in the field of anthropology from a Christian perspective (at Wheaton). Once I decided to go to Wheaton, my father encouraged me to take as many anthropology courses as possible. After taking the Introduction to Anthropology course, I fell in love with the field and knew that I wanted to pursue it as a major.
Which courses or professors made the most impression on you and how did that affect your career choice?
I enjoyed nearly all my courses in anthropology/sociology at Wheaton, but there were a couple that stood out in particular:
Introduction to Anthropology: This course, as taught by Dr. Howell, was just pure joy for me. Being taught to think differently about the world -- all in a hilariously fun atmosphere -- is what "sold" me on anthropology in the first place. Learning from Dr. Howell taught me that pursuing a course of study could be a lot of fun -- not just a lot of work.
Biculturalism: There are a two major reasons why this course meant so much to me. Firstly, at the time I took the course, I was, frankly, annoyed at Dr. Arnold because of the amount of writing he assigned to us as students. However, in retrospect, I realized that only through these rigorous writing exercises did I learn to be better writer, particularly through the use of convergent and divergent thinking. Secondly, Dr. Arnold taught me how to recognize culture shock. While this may seem, on the surface, to simply be something that was added to my intellectual knowledge base, at the time, it meant something much more personal. Specifically, I had undergone a difficult culture shock experience coming into Wheaton College, having never before been exposed to an evangelical learning and living community. For an entire year I had struggled to make sense of why my transition into Wheaton had been so difficult, yet upon learning the meaning of culture shock, everything fell into place, and I subsequently found the courage forgive myself (and God) for the pain that I had experienced. What I learned from Dr. Arnold in this course taught me an incredible amount on how I could apply anthropology to my own life.
Social Research: This class was the only sociology course I took, and it was probably one of my favorite courses at Wheaton. Dr. Miller has a way of challenging his students to think deeply and carefully about the different approaches to social research, and in a way that was so (strangely) rare at Wheaton, his integration of faith and learning blended in with the course material in a way that was neither forced nor expected. This made coming into class each day always serendipitously joyful. Dr. Miller's primary commitment to critically considering our Christian faith and then applying the lessons learned through such reflection to an academic subject matter was incredibly meaningful to me, particularly given the timing of the course in my life (my final semester at Wheaton and immediately following my first experience in a non-Christian learning environment, since entering Wheaton, at a study off-campus program).
How and why did you choose to follow your path beyond graduation and what are you doing now?
In assessing on how anthropology/sociology affected my career choice, I will say that what I took from this department was how valuable others' perspectives are and how my way of thinking is not the only way of viewing the world. All in all, this gave me more of a motivation to pursue a career that would continually challenge me to learn more about the world and the people that inhabit it
I am currently in the process of completing a specialized Master's degree program in Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Connecticut >>, focused on watershed management and policy. At the time that I chose my graduate program, I knew that I wanted to pursue a field of study that would allow me to consider both the scientific and sociological implications of environmental management. This was, in particular, motivated by my interdisciplinary undergraduate education at Wheaton. Another reason I chose this graduate program was because it gave me the opportunity to travel abroad, fully-funded. I was able to do so last summer when I interned with the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development >> in Bonn, Germany. After finishing my degree program, I hope to pursue a career in environmental communication that supports public information, management, and/or policy initiatives. I would love to do such work abroad, but I guess only God knows whether that's in my future!
What advice could you give a potential major?
Studying anthropology is far less about building up a skill set for a future job as it is about changing the way you view the world. As such, the knowledge you gain and the personal growth you will experience by being an anthropology major will benefit you in a way that no other major will at Wheaton. On-the-job skills can always be cultivated, but challenging your worldview for the better is something to be especially valued during your undergraduate years at Wheaton. Take advantage of the great opportunity you have in front of you!