Anthropology Alumni Notes

If you are an alum(na) and would like to send in a note, please use our Send in a Note Form.


Rachel Fischer '19

Hello Willamette! I am currently living in Anchorage, Alaska, working for an inter-tribal nonprofit organization that serves the natural resource management needs of seven Native Alaskan tribes in the Chugach region. It's a small organization of roughly five staff members but we do the work of probably ten people so it's usually always busy, with some interesting projects taking place. One of the several projects we are currently working on is a climate change program where we travel to our seven member tribes and conduct climate vulnerability assessments. Basically, we bring fresh food out to these remote communities, cook the community dinner (always including wild Alaska salmon, yum!) and facilitate a discussion on the changes they've been seeing in their subsistence resources and note what their concern level is for that specific resource. I've chosen to elaborate on this project of our many, because it has taken me out of the office and allowed me to travel to some beautiful places in Alaska that I wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to visit. My anthropology training at Willamette is very much still alive and well in my professional life. Working with and for Alaska Native populations on a day-to-day basis means I employ cross-cultural communication practices that I learned throughout my time with the anthropology department. There are a lot of other skills I learned in the classroom that I apply to my work on a daily basis, they're just not always obvious, and I continue to learn applied anthropology through this position! (2/2020)

Laura Polkinghorn ‘19

Hello Willamette Anthropology! I am currently living and working in Portland as a research assistant in a cancer lab at OHSU. While I am not officially utilizing my anthropology degree, I find myself drawing on much of what I learned from those classes, especially when it comes to understanding science culture and interacting with my colleagues. I love that my anthropology degree feels like a training for life, and that I can utilize what I learned in a diversity of situations. I plan to pursue a career in public health/medical anthropology, and hope to spend the next few years living abroad and exploring those interests in various cultural contexts. (4/2020)


Kaitlyn Pierson '18

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia for a year and a half working as a teacher. Now I am working with the American Red Cross as an Americorps youth service volunteer. Willamette gave me the knowledge and skill set to put myself into new cultural settings and work with people from different walks of life. (2/2020)


Antonia Rohlf '17

After graduating I moved to Chile for a couple months, then took a Job in Barranquilla, Colombia with Amigos de Las Americas as the Director of a summer exchange program where college students from the US came to Colombia and lived with host families in rural communities in Colombia to implement community-based development initiatives like workshops on the UN global goals, planting gardens and teaching about reproductive health. I highly recommend a job with Amigos de las Americas to any anthropology grad who speaks Spanish and is interested in sustainable development in Latin America!! After that job, I went to Europe for three months then moved back to Portland and became a Spanish Medical Interpreter. Now I am very excited to announce that starting this June I will be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mexico focusing on land tenure, climate change, and youth empowerment!!  (2/2020)

Sasha A Noorani '17

Getting my Masters of Social Work at University of Pittsburgh! My BA in Anthropology led me to this path and am grateful for the foundation it provided me. (3/2020)


Ellie Hinkle '16

I am in graduate school seeking my Masters of Library and Information Science with an Archives Concentration at Simmons University (Boston, MA)! Willamette and the Anthropology department prepared me so well for the rigor and for many of the important conversations we have in my program about who is documented within archives - and who is erased. We are constantly discussing how we can work more closely with various communities and people of different cultural backgrounds to create a fuller and more inclusive story of our past. I'm always thinking of how culture plays into record keeping methodologies, and how cultural relativism (or the lack thereof) impacts the decisions made about what is deemed valuable to be kept in the archives. On a more professional note, I will be presenting at the New England Archivists Spring Meeting in April, and have submitted a proposal to the Society of American Archivists to present a poster about an event I'm planning as co-chair of my university's Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCoSAA).  I miss Willamette and the Anthropology department dearly, but I'm so grateful for all that it taught me and how well it prepared me for continuing my education and career! (2/2020)

Hannah Scott-Persson '16

I just celebrated 2 years at my current job at a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, CA:  The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. I work with teachers and school districts nationwide to assess the state of music education and identify schools to award donations of new instruments. Prior to this job, I was a teaching assistant at a middle school before realizing that I wanted to work in the field of education outside of the classroom. I will be graduating with my MA in Education from Cal State LA this coming May, 2020. I’ve been a part-time student for three years and am so looking forward to graduating and focusing solely on work. I don’t plan to leave my job any time soon, but am looking forward to a career in the nonprofit or higher ed sector. (2/2020)

Phoebe Wagner '16

I currently serve as the Operations Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy's Oregon Chapter. My responsibilities include facility management, coordinating partner events, and providing support for our Government Relations team. Prior to joining TNC in September 2019, I lived and worked on an organic biodiversity farm in Norway, managing business operations and learning about agroecology. I formerly served as the Property Coordinator at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization here in Portland. My academic training in anthropology and the mentorship of phenomenal professors at Willamette has provided the foundation for all that I have done, and sparked my passion for immigration and climate policy. Through studying anthropology, I am able to see the global interconnections between social and ecological systems necessary to my work. (3/2020)

Naomi Morgan '16

Right now, I am in Portland working at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) as a Career Coach in the A Home For Everyone program. I mainly work with people who are without housing or who are housing insecure and in danger of losing their housing. The goal of the program is to help folks get better jobs and get into training to get those jobs, but as I am sure you can imagine I do a lot of other things as well! I have learned so much from this experience, and I think this current job has brought me my largest professional growth thus far. (3/2020)

Hania Mariën '16

Hania Mariën is a PhD student in the Culture, Institutions and Society concentration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is interested in the relationship between education and peace, and participatory research and policymaking processes. Her work focuses on engaging youth in thinking about refugee law and migration policy, as well as civic action more broadly in the United States and Latin America. Currently, she is part of the Re-imagining Migration initiative focusing on preparing young people for a world on the move, the Research, Education, Action for Hope and Change initiative focusing on creating welcoming educational communities in situations of migration and displacement, and the Climate Refugee Stories project focusing on raising awareness about climate-induced migration through storytelling. (3/2020)

Anya Rogala ‘16

I'm in graduate school pursuing my Masters in Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. I did my internship this year at Kaiser Permanente in the Genetics Department, which supports individuals and families with genetics conditions and disabilities across the Northern California region. My work this year consisted of case management (connecting clients to resources, advocating with/for clients against structural injustices) and brief therapeutic interventions. Before this, I was working as a Mental Health Specialist in an inpatient mental health program for children. Next year I plan to pause my studies to be a full-time caregiver, but when I resume I want to focus on clinical mental health skills and prepare for licensure. Studying anthropology has been so valuable in my studies and practice, as embracing a stance of curiosity and cultural humility is imperative in healing and anti-oppressive work. I miss WU Anthropology and am so grateful for all I learned there! (4/2020)


Nicholas Xavier Mead '15

After graduating with a BA in Anthropology from Willamette I worked for two years as a social worker in Western Washington tackling the homelessness crisis, and especially working with youths experiencing homelessness. I then attended the University of Southampton in England for a year and received an MA in Maritime Archaeology. I currently volunteer with the Astoria-based Maritime Archaeological Society, and work full time for a variety of private cultural resource firms conducting archaeological surveys and producing reports for the state. So far I've worked in Washington, Oregon, and Nevada! Most days on the job are spent hiking and recording historic and prehistoric artifacts and features. I owe the Willamette Anthropology Department, and especially Dr. Millen, my advisor, for encouraging me and cultivating my interest in the study of culture. (2/2020)

Kayley Abrams '15

After graduating from Willamette with a double major in Anthropology and International Studies I moved down to the Bay Area and began working in non-profit fundraising, first at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, where I supported non-partisan dialogue on political and social issues and led study tours to Portugal, Spain, Italy and Malta. I now work at Stanford University raising funds for innovative biomedical research in the School of Medicine. Since graduating I also traveled to Israel, Iceland, Ireland, Greece, and Turkey to revisit my study abroad location. I use the lessons I learned in Anthropology everyday in my travels and my work as a fundraiser: to be inquisitive and thorough in my research, to ask high impact questions that get at the heart of someone's character and understand the world they live in, and to practice empathy in every interaction. (2/2020)

Cristina Marquez ‘15

I graduated from Willamette in 2015 with a major in Anthropology and minor in Psychology and French. After graduating, I joined the campaign to raise the statewide minimum wage in Oregon. I'm currently celebrating  4 years at Causa, Oregon's Immigrant Rights Organization as the Advocacy and Civic Engagement Director. In my time at Causa, I served as the campaign manager for No on Measure 105, defeating a statewide anti-immigrant ballot measure looking to repeal Oregon’s 31-year-old sanctuary law. Most recently, I managed the legislative campaign to win Driver’s Licenses for all regardless of immigration status. 

A lot of my work has been informed by my experiences and the skills I gained as an Anthropology major including being a researcher, critical thinker, analytical, a good listener, and centering the stories of people. I'm forever thankful to Professor Dobkins for introducing me to these tools and allowing me to be more connected to my Mixtec indigenous community and history through the various research projects where I got to travel to my native Oaxaca, Mexico. (4/2020)


Hannah Penrod '14

After graduating in 2014, I used my anthropology degree and experience studying abroad to land a job coordinating international and domestic adoptions out of Los Angeles and then transitioned into licensing foster homes for high needs foster children and teens on parole in Portland. Recently, I moved over to Washington County's Dept. of Housing Services where I became a case manager for chronically homeless and disabled folks, often with criminal backgrounds, who are seeking housing assistance, and am a member of the County's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. Currently I am working on my masters in criminal justice and hope to continue working with teens and adults exiting the justice system and working to get their lives on a new path. Anthropology coupled with studying abroad and participating in the Chemawa Indian School Partnership Program instilled a confidence and curiosity in me that I'm very grateful for and has taken me far in my post-grad life. I have revisited New Zealand, where I completed the Maori and Indigenous Studies Program, multiple times and am incredibly thankful for that program and the lifelong friendships built from it. Overall, my experiences with the anthropology department at Willamette have enabled me to take the motto "non nobis solum nati sumus" and live it every day.  (2/2020)

Eli Utne '14 

Following an extensive road-trip from Seattle to Joshua Tree, I recorded an album @ Wavelength Sound in Salem and then drove back to the Midwest to work on a regenerative agriculture project on family land in Wisconsin, Lily Springs Farm ( After two years of trying to convince myself that I was a hermit, I followed my heart to the SF Bay Area and took part in an AmeriCorps program, working in an after-school program in Richmond, CA. During that program I built a school garden and established a program I continue to manage today. During that program I began to think about larger possibilities for teaching, learning, and supporting others in sharing practical skills with others. That process inspired the creation of Learning By Hand LLC, a training service focused on developing community through shared experiences, from gardening to poetry. My WU anthropology degree has been crucial in providing me with the skills and perspectives necessary to examine my own place in a rapidly changing world and to thoughtfully engage as an active member of my community. (3/2020)


Kendra Schaffer '13

I graduated from Willamette in 2013 with an Anthropology degree and have done so much since I left. I traveled to the Oregon Coast, New Orleans and Portland working with youth and creating service learning opportunities with them. I moved back to Salem for a couple years to mentor at risk youth and to teach them life and job skills through Isaac's Room/The IKE Box. In 2016, I moved cross country to get my MSW at Tulane University. When that fell through two weeks in, I found myself moving to Leadville, Colorado where I worked for DHS for almost a year. I realized I missed Oregon and hated my office job, so I went back to the Pacific Northwest to get my Wilderness First Responder certification and started applying for outdoor recreation and education jobs. By May of 2017, I had accepted a job as a mentor for young adults at a residential therapy program  in Southern Oregon. Three years later, I'm now their Adventures Coordinator. I am in charge of all the logistics and planning of all our outdoor trips that are integrated into the program. This can look like a weekend surfing on the coast, a week long trip rafting, hiking, climbing and exploring a national park, or a month long service trip to Cambodia and South Africa.

Anthropology was not a college degree that put me on a specific path; it gave me the skills to create so many more paths than I ever thought possible. Every year, I take all my vacation time and travel abroad (last September I traveled solo for a month in New Zealand). The hope is to make it up to Scandinavia or somewhere in South America this fall. I'm buying a house on my own, which is something I didn't think I could do before I was 30. I get paid to plan outdoor adventure trips for students in therapy, which is super fun and rewarding in so many ways. I'm always open to chat and to be a resource if anyone has questions about life after undergrad. Good luck to you all! (2/2020)

Rabindra Asher Hayashi '13

Currently, I work at the Center for Asian American Media in various capacities in anticipation of our upcoming film festival. However, I was recently accepted into UC Berkeley's anthropology doctoral program and will be starting there this fall. (2/2020)

Jordyn Grant '13

After graduating from Willamette in 2013 with a major in Anthropology and a minor in American Ethnic Studies, I moved to Anchorage, AK. I spent the next few years working for the Alaska State Legislature, working campaign jobs, and generally adventuring as often as possible. I returned to Oregon in 2015 for my MPH at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. By far, my favorite area of study was Social Epidemiology, which I credit largely to my time at Willamette as an Anthropology major. After an internship at OHSU’s Oregon Office on Disability and Health, I returned to Anchorage and began working for the State of Alaska’s Division of Senior and Disabilities Services. Currently, I manage two programs that assist vulnerable adults and seniors with obtaining key services that aim to prevent institutionalization and allow choice, safety, independence, and dignity in home and community-based living. I recently married my college sweetheart (we met our junior year at Willamette) and we are happily settled in Anchorage. My time as an Anthropology major at Willamette completely changed my life. I will never forget the feeling of my brain expanding and my entire world view opening up, and it has encouraged me to stay curious, ask questions, and above all else – LISTEN.(3/2020)


Kendra Gilts '12

Thank you so much for reaching out to Anthropology grads in hopes of helping future graduates. I loved so many aspects of my experience at Willamette and am happy to share where I’ve ended up thus far.  After graduating I ended up interning as a graphic designer in Palo Alto, CA and have ended up in Texas as a Graphic Designer working for The City of College Station and owning my own brand identity and illustration studio. Anthropology created my passion for diverse groups of people. Today, I hope to make designs to promote inclusivity and healthy dialogue. We’ll see what happens next!  (2/2020)

Dylan Summers '12

Currently, I sit as Vice President of Government Affairs for a hemp-derived CBD product company, Lazarus Naturals, which I helped start. My day-to-day consists of managing lobbying initiatives, representing Lazarus Naturals within the industry and sitting as the resident expert regarding laws and regulations pertaining to hemp and cannabinoids. I interact with nearly every facet of the operation at Lazarus Naturals--from hemp cultivation to consumable CBD product marketing and everything in between. My degree in Anthropology from WU helps me to understand differing perspectives and has primed me to know what is required to execute complicated tasks in a timely and efficient manner. (2/2020)

Rachael Mayer '12

It's so wonderful to hear from the Anthro Department! After graduating, I worked in social work in Portland before deciding that I wanted to pursue my love of art. I attended Idaho State University and earned my Masters of Fine Arts in Studio Art with a concentration in fibers and paper. Since then, I've worked as an artist, professor, workshop instructor, museum educator, and in intellectual property. Anthropology provided a wonderful framework that has guided me in my curiosity for the world. I now make artwork about communities, social networks, and systems and have exhibited around the country. I very much appreciate that I was never taught what or how to think but rather, how to ask the right questions. My degree from WU has served me well! (3/2020)

Claire Hoffman '12

I'm Assistant to the President and Registrar at Birthingway College of Midwifery. (3/2020)

Conor Foley ‘12

After graduating from Willamette I moved to Boston and worked for Partners in Health, a global health organization doing amazing work, for about a year. Life brought me back to Salem where I found a great community working at Salem Summit Company, a local outdoor store, for 6 years. Just last year I started down a new path and I am now pursuing my MPH in Health Promotion/Health Behavior at Oregon State. I find myself using lessons from my anthropology courses daily during my coursework at Oregon State. There are many direct ties between anthropology and public health and I think I am a better, more thoughtful citizen because of the professors I learned from at Willamette. (4/2020)

Claire Fallat ‘12

After graduating from Willamette, I joined the AmeriCorps VISTA program in Austin, TX where I ran a volunteer program at a non-profit. After a few years there, I moved back to the Northwest, and I’m now the Assistant Director of Advancement at a private school in Seattle. My Anthropology degree has prepared me well for a strong career and even stronger relationships with the people I meet along the way. (4/2020)


Beth Freelander (Freese) '11

After graduating from Willamette, I did a year of AmeriCorps VISTA with Lane County's Public Health Department. This led me to a career in substance abuse prevention for several years. I returned to school in 2018 and I will be graduating from Arizona State University with my Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree in May 2020! I'm currently interning with Maricopa Association of Governments, the metropolitan planning organization in Phoenix. At my internship, I've had the opportunity to work on regional transportation planning. My degree in anthropology has been a great foundation for both public health and urban planning. (2020)

Lindsey Falkenburg '11

So much has happened since I graduated from Willamette! Immediately after graduating I decided I wanted to work outside with my hands and ended up in Arizona, leading restoration crews all over the Southwest. While I was there I made friends with someone who had hiked the Appalachian Trail and got inspired. In 2013 I set off to hike the Appalachian Trail which was a wild, wonderful, deeply life changing experience. After finishing the trail I moved back to Seattle and started a series of conservation jobs - I worked for Earthcorps training young environmental leaders, for King County Backcountry Trails building trails all over the Seattle area and at Mount Rainier on their trail crew constructing a giant 40 ft bridge! In 2016 I left Seattle again to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (can you tell I got the hiking bug?) which was hard but so beautiful and moving. Upon returning to Seattle I also returned to Earthcorps. Since then Earthcorps has been an incredible home and community for me, filled with progressive, hard working friends who are determined to tackle our local environmental issues by inspiring and training young leaders and by figuring out how to do so in a racially equitable way. I am so proud to work there and am lucky because this summer they have granted me a five month leave of absence to go hike the Continental Divide Trail (together the PCT, AT and CDT make up the Triple Crown of thru-hiking). I am nervi-cited for what this summer holds but so thankful to have a place like Earthcorps behind me as I continue to see what I am made of. (3/2020)

Meryl Hulse '11

Shortly after graduating from Willamette I moved to New York City, where I've more or less remained for the last 9 years. Following an internship as a case manager for asylum seekers, I got involved in Hurricane Sandy disaster relief and recovery efforts, working with low-income renters and homeowners in Coney Island. I've remained in this small (but growing) field, currently as the Director of Client Services at a nonprofit serving vulnerable households displaced by climate fueled disasters. My current work is focused on Puerto Rico, and enhancing equity in the dispersal of recovery funds. I feel very indebted to the Anthro Department, particularly Professors Dobkins and Millen, who prepared me for a far more rewarding, purposeful career than I could have ever anticipated. (3/2020)


Thea O'Leary (Christensen) '10

I found my dream job working in the Alaska Salmon Industry! While it comes with an accounting job title, which I could never have imagined with a degree in Anthropology, I love to be a part of this amazing community. From hearing tales of handed down fishing techniques, to watching a community come together to train and empower the youngest members of the fishing fleets, I am excited every summer to learn from and be a part of such an amazing culture. I record stories I am told all the time, and dream of one day publishing a collection! My degree has taught me such important life skills, like listening, being able to capture a person's voice and intent honestly, and communicating carefully. My managers praise my ability to work on projects with different departments, and get everyone on the same page. I truly attribute these skills to my education at Willamette. (2/2020)

Emily Carpenter '10

Hello! Immediately following my graduation from Willamette in 2010 I moved to South Korea to teach English. What started as a one year plan turned into 9 years and many more countries as I continued to live abroad and teach in Taiwan, Colombia, Vietnam, and Australia. I was always very interested in Asian and Latino cultures while studying and I couldn't stop living among other people, cultures, and languages. I have recently moved back to the United States and I am currently making the transition to a more stationary lifestyle, but after all I have seen in the world, it is a little hard!  I'm so happy that my degree in Anthropology opened my eyes to life abroad, and put lots of spice in my life. (3/2020)

Ben Clanton '10

After graduating from Willamette, I married Anthro alum ('09) Kelsey Clanton (maiden name Walsh). Other than a couple years spent in the Boston area while Kelsey got her M. Ed. at Boston University, we've spent most of the past decade in Seattle, WA where we live now with our two kids. We've found our Anthro studies invaluable in our approach to parenting! The same can be said for my career as a children's book author and illustrator. I've written and illustrated twenty some titles featuring such things as narwhals, potatoes, dinosaurs, and monsters. My book making process (even if the connection isn't always immediately apparent) has been greatly informed by my studies at Willamette in Anthropology. Thank you Prof. Millen, Prof. Dobkins, Prof. Fofana, Prof. Moro, and Prof. Wogan for challenging my worldview and helping develop the foundation for my work as a storyteller. (3/2020)

Jacob Reese ‘10

Hello Willamette! After graduating from WU in 2010, I contributed to the infamous Willamette statistic of Bearcats marrying other Bearcats and married Rachael DeMarta (class of '09); shortly thereafter, we both moved to New York City, where I enrolled in a dual Masters program. I received a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a Master of Social Work degree from the Silberman School of Social Work. We moved back to Portland in 2015, and I began work as a mental health therapist for a community mental health agency. Currently, I work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for Clackamas County where I support people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. I cannot even begin to articulate how my training and education in Anthropology has been instrumental in my capacity to relationally engage others, explore a shared definition of someone's strengths and challenges, understand someone else's (and my own) framework for what positive and healthy functioning looks like, and implement health literacy through communicating information in a way that is most accessible to someone else in their own way of understanding. Beyond work, the skills of critical thinking and cultural analysis are so important for understanding what is happening in our world right now. More than ever, our society needs culture-creators and culture-shifters who can continue to push our own culture(s) into being increasingly equitable spaces where more people can experience safety and belonging. I am deeply grateful to all of my Anthropology professors, including Rebecca Dobkins, Peter Wogan, Pam Moro, JB Kwon, and Joyce Millen, for their gift of teaching and support that they bring to the WU community. (4/2020)


Kelsey (Walsh) Clanton '09

After Willamette, I participated in Teach For America Massachusetts and got my Masters in education. I taught 2nd and 3rd grade and still love those grades so much! I then spent time in museum education, teaching history and developing and updating curriculum for teachers to utilize. (3/2020)

Shannon Satterwhite '09

I am a student in the MD/PhD program in medical anthropology at UC San Francisco. I received my Ph.D. in June 2019. My research focused on the organization of time and temporal ethics in safety net primary care practice. Now, I am back in medical school for my clinical rotations and will apply to residency next fall. The learning and mentorship I experienced in the Willamette Anthropology department clearly shaped my path and I am grateful for the ways in which anthropology informs my thinking as a medical student and future clinician-educator.(3/2020)

Mara Isbell '09

Since leaving Willamette, I've had the opportunity to travel a lot and have had various fulfilling jobs. I've worked in nonprofits, and in university study abroad & student service departments. I'm now living in Bend, and am the Admissions Director at ARCC Programs, where we do international trips for youth (gap programs for college aged students, and summer trips for teens). In all my roles, I've felt like I've been able to carry forward Willamette's motto of "not unto ourselves alone are we born". Life is good! I am still close with so many Willamette friends, and treasure my time in particular in the Anthropology department. (3/2020)


Jasmine Azpiri Miller '08

Immediately after graduation I did a lot of travel with service and mission work.  

Then I became a nanny and eventually continued my education and received a master’s degree in human nutrition and functional medicine. I graduated in 2016 and helped a physician at The Polyclinic in Seattle design a nutrition and lifestyle program to help those with obesity and metabolic syndrome. I have been working there for the last 4 years and our department has grown from just myself and the lead physician to now two physicians and a nurse practitioner.

I got married in the summer of 2017 and now we are expecting our first child in summer 2020. (3/2020)

Jenny McKenzie Parpia, LCSW '08

After graduating from WU with a dual degree in Anthropology and Spanish, I had the privilege of traveling to eleven countries with a Watson Fellowship to study how the Vagina Monologues has been utilized by diverse cultures to address the issue of violence against women. I worked in Portland, OR and the Bay Area, California for the next 7+ years in various roles as a domestic violence advocate, before pursuing my MSW at UC Berkeley with a concentration in community mental health. I am now a licensed clinical social worker providing trauma focused therapy at UCSF to diverse survivors of violence- crimes in the US including IPV, sexual assault, community violence and traumatic loss, as well as supporting international refugees and asylum speakers. My love and curiosity around cultures and intersecting identities fuels my therapy practice, and I strive to incorporate cultural humility in my work with my clients. My language skills have allowed me to expand mental health access to monolingual Spanish-speakers, and I feel grateful for the solid academic foundation Willamette provided, as well as the strong emphasis on service. My family will be relocating to Portland, OR this summer and I am excited to see what comes next! (3/2020)


Aleta Burchyski Ward '07

After WU I got a Masters in magazine-making from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications. Now I'm the associate managing editor at Outside magazine. Anthro theory and methodology taught me how to think thoughtfully and creatively about pop culture, which has certainly helped me navigate the constantly changing media landscape. (2/2020)

Emma Williams '07

I’ve been an elementary school teacher for 10 years. I received my Masters in Teaching from Seattle Pacific University in 2010. I loved my WU Anthropology courses and professors. Anthropology helped me to become a more critical thinker and to look at things from multiple perspectives. I learned a lot about other cultures and people in general. I know my Anthropology background has helped me in my career in education. (2/2020)

Sarah (Potts) Rose '07

After graduating from Willamette, I moved back to my hometown of Seattle, WA and started working in the marketing industry for food companies (my passion - getting paid to eat!).  My husband and I then took a two year hiatus from the working world and traveled around the world, visiting SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America. We have always loved to travel and fully immersing ourselves was a special way to see the world, something Anthropology definitely highlighted for me.  Upon our return in 2015, I started to work for Compass Group at Microsoft, and have moved to be the GM of Storytelling + Experiences. We have also added two kids to the mix, and enjoy living in Seattle.  

Anthropology allowed me to critically look at situations from multiple angles.  I feel able to consider the guest experience on our campus, and design programs that will heighten their enjoyment.  I also feel well suited to work with all departments on our campus, empathizing with each. (3/2020)

Susanna Bee '07

I'm currently working as a bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist for a pediatric clinic and and as an in-home Early Intervention speech therapy provider in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I also lead a team of volunteer speech therapists for the Smiles International Foundation in Tecate, Mexico. 

After graduating, I had a wonderful few years of trying out different career paths, including leading a fundraising cross-country bicycle trip across the US with Bike and Build, work at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, art-therapy based work with the non-profit Children's Healing Art Project, and teaching English in Colombia through WorldTeach for a year. All these divergent paths somehow led me to complete my master's in Speech-Language Pathology at San Diego State University in 2013. Since then, I have worked in different hospitals and clinics, and with wonderful families from all walks of life, including mostly farmworker families and families from non-English speaking countries. In 2016, I had the privilege of taking an 18-month sabbatical to (quite literally) travel around the world from New Zealand to Mexico. 

I remember that at the time I graduated with my Anthropology degree from Willamette I winced each time the question was asked: "So what do you do with an anthropology degree?" Because even I didn't know at the time, I would reply, "whatever I want to," and even though I was half-kidding in those moments, I really do think this could not have been more true. Anthropology allowed me to explore all the different ways (and there were so many) that I could see myself working and contributing to the world -- through politics, city planning, healthcare, culture, languages, and psychology -- and gave me a foundation to be successful in wherever I landed. I genuinely love my career and my decade of adventure and experience after graduation. I am finally settling down a bit and starting a family with my partner (Anthro plug: He also has an undergrad degree in Anthropology but is now an ER physician) and we both wish there could be more cultural anthropologists in the world (especially in the healthcare industry)! (3/2020)


Garrett Stephenson '06

I have gone in directions I never would have predicted as a college senior, but they have all been positive. Immediately post graduation, I spent four years as an urban planner in Salem and Portland. During the Great Recession, I decided a career change was prudent and went to law school at Lewis and Clark.  Since graduating and passing the bar exam in 2013, I’ve practiced land use and municipal law at two good Portland firms. Happily married to another WU grad, our family is now four and couldn’t be happier...although we could be less busy. The strong analytical training and writing skills I received from my anthropology major is the foundation for everything I’ve done since my WU days and I still look at it as the most important education I’ve ever received. (2/2020)

Anonymous '06

After graduation I had a brief moment of working in appraisal before reconnecting with my passion of working with children. I went to graduate school for a MAT degree and have been teaching preschool for over 10 years. Being a preschool teacher has allowed me to use my anthropology degree far more than I ever imagined; making the strange familiar and the familiar strange is everyday work. Young learners are working so hard to decode the culture they are being brought into and while intelligent and intuitive, they lack the experience and context to put it all together. It is fascinating how often I find myself in conversation with a 4 or 5 year old asking me the big 'why' questions I pondered while in my anthropology classes. (2/2020)


Beth Phillips '05

Greetings from Berkeley! I am currently a Project Director at UCSF managing a four-year research project looking at optimizing the contraceptive method mix vis a via DMPA-SC self injection in Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda. Since joining UCSF in 2016, I have overseen qualitative cohort studies to randomized control trials to mix-method research initiatives, all focused on measuring and improving quality reproductive healthcare for women in resource constrained settings from India to Rwanda to the San Francisco Bay Area. My training in anthropology and gender studies at Willamette laid a strong, dynamic feminist foundation from which I have built my global health career. (2/2020)

Arija Linauts '05

In the years since graduation, my Anthropology degree has taken me on an unexpected path from Salem to NYC. After graduation from WU, I earned a Masters degree in Humanities (which, to be honest, was not necessary). I landed a job at an education non-profit and have now worked in that field for 13 years. Currently, I work as an Education Advocate for students experiencing homelessness. My degree in Anthropology taught me to listen, to avoid judgment or assumptions, and to piece together multiple perspectives in order to solve a problem. It also strengthened my ability to communicate clearly. These may seem like "soft skills," but they have been invaluable in my ability to not only get a job, but to connect with families (clients) who have a completely different perspective and experience than my own. (3/2020)

Jeanne Beko '05

I teach middle school Spanish in the Portland metro area. I have been teaching Spanish since 2007.  Cultural relativism works in the classroom too! Anthropology taught me to consider the wide array of challenges and influences that make each of my students unique learners and complex little (okay most of the time bigger than me) humans even when they are throwing pencils in my ceiling or drawing the “no no zone” on their papers.  My job is rarely dull! While on my frequent vacations I travel to Mexico or sometimes Europe to ride bikes with my Patty and eat food. I also run a bike racing team and race mountain and cyclocross. If I’m not teaching or biking I am toiling in my front yard Southeast Portland urban farm front yard. (3/2020)


Kristin Akervall '04

I have spent the last 15 years largely working in the field of institutional research at colleges and universities. Currently, I am working on my MS in Business Analytics and am studying Data Science. I also  have been serving in local government as Council President for the City of Wilsonville. One thing I have taken from my background in anthropology into my current work is the ability to listen and observe carefully what is happening around me. The quality of our response to information will always depend on our ability to hear it in the first place. (2/2020)

Dayna Reed '04

In the 15 years since I have graduated I have been able to blend entrepreneurism, business management and community development into my professional and personal life. I currently reside in Portland, OR and run two businesses; A coworking space called openHAUS sharing resources for small business owners with a community value of amplifying and supporting BIPOC and women predominately and a retail boutique called greenHAUS where we curate gifts and homegoods from around the world, throughout time and artistically crafted.  I have the honor of sharing my life and businesses with an amazing Woman and we are raising a beautiful 5 year old. 

My anthropology education has impacted my work and personal life in incredible ways by allowing me to be in constant evolution with curiosity, effective listening, ability to work with people from different backgrounds and perspectives, and perhaps especially practice clear boundaries of not needing to "own" every experience in order to understand and support. (3/2020)

Melissa J Wheeler '04

From a Bearcat to a White Buffalo:

I graduated with a major in Cultural Anthropology and minors in Religious Studies and Spanish in 2004. I completed a Master's in Teaching at WOU in 2007 where I met my future spouse. We are now both in our 13th year of teaching. I teach high school English, but I am about to start teaching an elective called AVID which helps first-generation college-bound students navigate high school and the college admission/finance process. The school where I work in Central Oregon is a really diverse place. About a third of our students come from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs reservation, about 12 miles out of town. Another third of our students are Latino. They're a mixture of very recent arrivals from mainly Mexico, El Salvador, and Peru, along with students from families that have been here for several generations now. Then another third of our students are white, mostly, and a lot are from ranching or agricultural backgrounds. It's a really cool blend of people here in Madras, Oregon. I feel like I use anthropology every day even though I am not technically an anthropologist because a big part of teaching is noticing what kids are up to, observing patterns of behavior, and finding out what's meaningful to the students because that helps motivate them. I've even stolen a really good name repetition game from Dr. Dobkins - shout out to my advisor! - that I use every single semester when I get new kids and it works like a charm! (Not anthro-related, but I have to say I have borrowed a lot of teaching strategies from Dr. Dobkins, actually… She really had a way of getting us to participate in class beyond what many other professors were able to do.) Additionally, my husband and I have time off most summers, and we travel a lot. I just got back from seeing my 24th different country and for my husband it's his 16th different country; the travel that I got to do as part of Willamette's study abroad program plus the experience of learning about participant observation has put me on a path of being comfortable exploring the world outside of Oregon. An understanding of anthropology is incredibly useful for anyone who works with diverse groups of people… Like being a better listener and understanding people from a lot of different backgrounds when we all have to work together, like in a school setting. It's a big part of my life even though I didn't go into something directly related to anthropology, and I don't feel like I would be the teacher that I am without it. I really appreciate Willamette and the anthropology program - I especially am grateful to Dr. Morrow, Dr. Wogan, and Dr. Dobkins. (3/2020)


Shunsuke Kaneko '02

I'm working for a law firm, Baker McKenzie, as a regional manager of Leadership & Learning, South East Asia and Japan, in charge of enhancing capabilities development among nine offices. I'm currently living and working in Singapore. Also, I'm a regional assessor for Partner Promotion in APAC. My studies at Willamette helped my career development in understanding cultural differences. (2/2020)

Beth (Kowal) Lyons '02

Since graduating from Willamette in 2002, I taught English in Japan for two years. Inspired by International Education, I got my MA in "International Education" from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. In 2011, I began working at INTO OSU in Corvallis, Oregon, advising International students, and co-teaching 'Drama through English' classes. Recently, I am working at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon, as an administrative assistant to the Dean of Instruction. We are working on a 'Design Thinking' project for student coaching and will use anthropological coding for qualitative research. I use anthropological Participant Observation or research tools everywhere I go! (3/2020)


Laura Whipple ‘99

After graduating from Willamette in 1999 with my BA in Anthropology and History, I spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Damascus, Syria. In 2001, I pivoted from academics to become an entrepreneur, and for the past 18 years, I've been the co-founder of a Publishing company based in Portland, Oregon. Over the years we've done all sorts of creative projects, including publishing poetry, fiction, and essays, running a micro record label, producing sustainable paper goods, and designing and manufacturing custom print projects for clients across the globe. All along, we've had a strong commitment towards design and sustainability. For the past few years, we've been B Corp Certified and focused on our main product line, Scout Books, a customizable book format that uses 100% recycled paper, and is made with renewable energy in our factory in Portland. I've always loved books, and now I get to make them every day for clients ranging from independent artists, nonprofits and universities, to the biggest tech companies in the world. It's been an amazing journey. I often put my Anthropological training to good use as I think about the culture of my company, the ways that I can better understand behaviors and patterns, and my desire to remain curious and ethical as I approach my work and responsibilities each day. (4/2020)


Adam Withycombe '98 

After graduation I continued at Willamette for my MAT where I used my anthropology background to become a social studies teacher.  I spent 10 years in the classroom teaching bilingual (Spanish) 3rd and 5th grades in Woodburn, OR and Walla Walla, WA, gifted 7th and 8th grade in Walla Walla, and 3rd and 5th grade general education in Knoxville, TN. I got my Doctorate in Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership with the intention of pursuing building and district administration roles, but landed in educational assessment.  For the last almost 8 years I have worked for a large not-for-profit K-12 assessment company. I currently manage the content design and development of our products. I use my Willamette anthropology background on a daily basis as I consider cultural implications in and around the education ecosystem. (3/2020)

Back to Top