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Jennifer Anderson

Jennifer Anderson

Graduation Year: 2004

Major: Anthropology

Why did you choose Anthropology?

I chose Anthropology because I enjoyed studying people and writing papers that integrated research and real life.  I wanted to work in the non-profit or development world and thought that having a good grasp of people and culture was important.

Which courses made an impression on you?

Culture Theory changed the way I saw the world and challenged me to understand people and their contexts in an academic sense.  My research class also gave me practical skills that are still useful to me today.

How did that affect your career choice?

My first job affected my career choice more than my classes.  My classes shaped my thinking and provided me with skills, then I followed my interests (and the job market) to get my first job.

Which professors impacted you?

All of my sociology/anthropology professors impacted me, but  I had most of my Anthropology classes with Dean Arnoldand Brian Howell.  They were excellent educators and mentors while I was in school and both have given me professional advice and assistance since I graduated.  There were many reasons these two professors impacted me, but here are a few that stand out.  Dr. Arnold was the first person to take the time to tell me I should go to graduate school (he was right!) and to get me thinking about my next steps.  Dr. Howell helped me bridge between anthropology as an academic discipline and anthropology as something that you can use in your everyday life.

How and why did you choose to follow you path beyond graduation?

After I graduated, I looked for interesting jobs in the non-profit sector and I got a job at a non-profit food bank as the Youth Nutrition Program Coordinator. I used my major every day, working with ethnically diverse youth sites and developing new programs.  This job piqued my interest in nutrition as I realized that nutrition and health played an important role on helping people escape poverty.  I decided to go back to graduate school.  I took physical science requisites for a few years, and my interest evolved further into public health and nutrition.  I went on to get a master of science in public health, focusing on international health and I also became a registered dietitian nutritionist.

What are you doing now?  What does that type of job look like?

I am the Team Lead for SNAP-Ed Connection at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. I manage a team to maintain a resource web site for SNAP-Ed educators and programs >>.  SNAP-Ed is the federal obesity-prevention program that provides nutrition education to people who are eligible for SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits.

I do a variety of things. I manage the task load for each team member and provide vision and direction for the project. I am in charge of improving the user experiences of our web site, managing web site content, and executing our marketing plan. I review nutrition education curricula and recipes, stay abreast of public health and nutrition-related research and resources, create communications materials, and analyze website usage. I also promote our Web site at conferences and meetings and network to increase awareness about our site.

My anthropology background enables me to think about our web site from the perspectives of the people using it and help make it a more useful tool. Also, in the government setting, there are many regulations that must be met and change is often met with resistance. I use my anthropology training to understand my workplace, and make change easier for my team and organization.

What advice could you give a potential major?

If you become an anthropology major, develop a 1-minute "elevator speech"/sales pitch for yourself and practice on as many people as you can.  An anthropology major will make you stand out in a job interview, but only if you can articulate its value.  I can't tell you how many people say, "...that sounds great.  I thought anthropology was digging up bones."

My elevator speech/sales pitch is always tailored to the audience, but often goes something like this: "I have a bachelors in cultural anthropology.  It is a great major and I use it every day!  Cultural Anthropology is all about how people understand the world and learning to see from someone else's perspective.  I can work with diverse groups and I have a strong customer focus.  I know how to observe and ask questions, and develop creative solutions that are unique to my organization. [If there is time, I throw in a concrete example.]"

An anthropology major doesn't lay out a career path the same way some other degrees do.  This is an asset, as long as you are the type of person who can pick up other skills along the way or you have plans for further education/training.

Finally, get to know your professors and keep in touch with them after you graduate.  They are an invaluable resource.