Graduation Year: 2002
Why did you choose Anthropology?
I switched my major to Anthropology during my Sophomore year after having taken a couple of ANTH classes. The content of the courses presented a challenging and compelling new way of looking at the world for me. I enjoyed the instructors that I had, as well the other SOC/ANTH majors.
Which courses made the most impression on you?
Intro to Anthropology--this class really opened my eyes to the idea of the wonder & complexity of human culture.
Globalism-- I still think about this class as our world becomes more inter-connected through technology. How does globalism change our responsibility as global citizens?
Ethnography of Urban Communities-- at the time I'd never lived in an urban environment. This class presented the "city" in a way that dealt with some of the issues of large cities in their broader context of American society & history. Now, living in one of America's poorest cities, I can see how the ideas we discussed in that class helped lay a groundwork for living and working here, and being excited about city life, rather than fearful of it.
How did that affect your career choice?
After college, the natural choice for me was to find work in the human services. I was interested in the diversity of the human experience and inspired through the opportunities to build relationships with people I otherwise wouldn't have met outside the social services sector.
Studying anthropology also affirmed my interest in working abroad. After getting some training in sustainable agriculture (another interest of mine), my wife and I worked for three years in Honduras with Mennonite Central Committee >> in a position that drew upon my background in Anthropology and agriculture (and some other skills sets that I had to develop on the fly.)
Which professors impacted you?
Dr. Bolyanatz was really the reason I switched to the ANTH major. His ability to convey the intrigue of studying--and inter-relating with--people of different cultures, experiences and perspectives, and his openness to looking at faith and science from "outside the box", were two of the most important components of my academic experience at Wheaton.
I also really enjoyed my classes with Dr. Arnold & Dr. Howell. The ANTH faculty always showed an interest in students above & beyond the quality of the papers we turned in. Outside of the SOC/ANTH department, I had classes with Dr. Paul Robinson in the HNGR Department and Dr. Lindy Scott in the Spanish Department that complimented the instruction I got in Anthropology & helped me to begin building a more global outlook on the world and a critical understanding of faith, society, politics and all the rest.
Was it the rigor from the course, the way the content was presented, the nurturing and challenging atmosphere, etc?
A bit of all of these. The classes & professors that really stuck with me were those that presented information that was fun and challenging to our preconceived notions of the world and that encouraged students, at the same time, to apply that thinking to the choices we were making not only about careers, but about the lives we wanted to live and the people we wanted to become.
How and why did you choose to follow your path beyond graduation?
My path since college has combined my career interests/academic background with an underlying belief in an obligation to address the needs of marginalized individuals and communities. This path has taken me from Chicago to Texas to Honduras for three years, and then to Buffalo, NY where we currently live. The work connected to each of these locations has further convinced me of our duty to the poor and oppressed, but has also shown glimpses of the divine connectivity that exists between human beings regardless of one's status as a "have" or "have not."
My coursework at Wheaton--through the Anthropology and Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) programs--helped to encourage my desire to serve others, and also taught me to think critically about how our good intentions and best efforts to do so sometimes have negative effects. We can't completely do away with the power dynamic between ourselves and the individuals we seek to "serve," but by placing emphasis on the relationship between individuals versus simply the "need," we can build a more meaningful connection.
What are you doing now? What does that type of job look like?
I am currently the Senior Director of Community Access Services, a non-profit organization in Buffalo, NY that promotes HIV and chronic disease prevention & risk reduction services in under-served communities. Our efforts target Buffalo's African American and Hispanic communities, which are disproportionately affected by HIV and a host of other chronic diseases, locally and nationally. We are part of an association of agencies that provide comprehensive services--such as primary medical care, case management, housing and nutrition support, mental health & substance abuse services, pharmacy, etc--to individuals living with chronic diseases (with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS).
My job includes managing a staff of five full-time and four part-time staff members and overseeing the activities that they conduct, which include community outreach, educational groups, one-on-one risk reduction counseling, HIV, STI, Hep C and pregnancy testing and mental health services. Our services are funded by grants, and part of my job is also to explore new opportunities for growth for our agency, to address the needs of our clients in a variety of ways and on increasingly deeper levels.
What advice could you give a potential major?
Surround yourselves with the people & ideas that challenge you to be the person you want to become. Find a mentor (even if you don't call them that). College might be the best opportunity in life to do that.
Also, on a more practical note, take advantage of opportunities and resources available to you to find out about careers that are out there and those that you're interested in. Have a plan for what happens after college; life won't go exactly according to your plan, but at least you'll have an idea for the direction you want to move in.
Tell us some interesting things about yourself:
I live with my wife, Maria, & two sons (3 years old & 3 months old) on the West Side of Buffalo, an area that offers an inspiring diversity of cultures, especially as more & more refugees from Burma & East Africa are resettled here. To balance out our urban context, we plant a garden each Spring and are raising chickens. We bought an old (1880) house a couple of years ago, so I've added home repairs to my list of hobbies out of necessity.