Anthropology Alumni Notes

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Justin Alvey '09

I am currently working as a loan officer with Spartan Mortgage. My experience in anthropology has made me ten times a better salesman because it has taught me how to understand all different types of perspectives and how to effectively analyze situations from a holistic point of view.

Kristin Friesen Akervall '04

My current title is Director of Research for the Austen Group. We do institutional research reporting and analysis for colleges and universities. It is a small company started by a former English professor and we primarily work with independent schools. Part of my job entails doing some reporting for CIC (Council of Independent Colleges) of which Willamette is a member.

Jasmine Azpiri '08

I am currently working as a Patient Services Representative for Dr. John and Dr. Sharp at The Polyclinic in Seattle. I have been taking classes part-time through Seattle Central Community College to complete my prerequisites for nursing school. I will be applying to the University of Washington Graduate Entry Nursing Program (GENP) August 2010.

Laurel Braun Newton '00

I look back on my anthropology days very fondly. I have not pursued any further education, except the professional continuing education required by my previous job in the insurance industry, and a French class here and there. Currently, I am a Sock Minion working at Sock Dreams in Portland.

Laura Brian Whipple '99

I currently work as the Director of Operations at Pinball Publishing, a creative printing and publishing company based in Portland that I co-founded.

Aleta Burchyski '07

After earning a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University I spent a year working in the magazine industry, interning at Martha Stewart's Body+Soul magazine. I then launched Charlottesville Woman magazine for a daily newspaper in Virginia and am serving as editor in chief for their magazine department. Unfortunately this isn't the best climate for magazines and newspapers, so I recently became the publicist for an early childhood book company. Now I spend my days writing press releases and articles on our books and authors. A big part is analyzing pop culture trends and strategizing how to position the company at the forefront. My four years with the Anthropology Department was time well spent.

Kara Casey '08

I currently work at Lutheran Social Service in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a Refugee Resettlement Case Manager. I apply my cultural anthropology degree all the time in my work: in my cross cultural communication skills, in understanding my own ethnocentrism as I interact with the newly arrived refugees and provide them with guidance, in understanding proper mannerisms and how to be polite in different cultures, in preparing a culturally appropriate meal for the new arrivals, in speaking up and advocating for refugees' rights in the United States, in criticizing local articles written about negative aspects of the refugee community. I am very grateful for my cultural anthropology education, and I love that I can continue to study anthropology through my work.

In September 2009 I will be returning to the Seattle area to be a Community Based Learning Coordinator for the University of Washington hopefully connecting refugee communities and nonprofits that work with the immigrant/refugee population to university students in academia.

Elena Croswaite Borquist Noyes '07

I am an instructor at Hango Agricultural College on the island of 'Eua in the Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific. My classes are primarily business and farm management-focused, and I do a bit of individual help on the side with English skills. My husband and I joined the Peace Corps last October, and will both be teaching at local schools until December of 2011. I'm constantly remembering my anthropology classes at Willamette, and am seriously considering getting my PhD in Anthropology sometime in the next ten years. Before joining the Peace Corps, I worked as a product marketing intern at Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield in Portland for the summer. Not only did anthropology come in useful in understanding this thing they call corporate culture, but also in helping culturally translate health education materials to many different community groups.

Emily Doerr '06

I graduated from Willamette in 2006 and worked for the Washington State Department of Health for a year on a study funded by the Center for Disease Control to find out information on the effects of diabetes on the heart. In 2007-09, I was in Mali (West Africa) serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Health Education sector. In the Peace Corps I worked closely with a remote health center in a village outside the large city of Kayes (about 90 km east of the Senegal border). My projects focused mostly on nutrition, gardening, and maternal and child health. I now (2010) work for the Cochran Fellowship Program at the USDA in Washington DC. I'm the program training coordinator for the Eastern Europe/Eurasia region. We recruit and interview prospective fellows for our training program. We plan and organize agriculture focused trainings and set up the fellows' travel to the United States. Anthropology has always played a part in my life since Willamette. The way I think and react to situations is based on my understanding of the culture I'm in, whether it's in West Africa or Washington, DC. When asked in my interview for my current job what my greatest accomplishment was I said that it was learning Bambara in Peace Corps (the local language in Mali). The only way I was able to truly connect with and understand the people I was there to help was to be able to speak and understand their language. You leave Peace Corps with a humbling sense of what is possible to accomplish in development and ultimately, the friends you made, the people you spoke to and laughed with were the real value in the experience. The only way I could appreciate that was to look at the situation anthropologically; looking at a culture can never be the same as being a part of it.

Elyssa Figari '06, Archaeology

I have been offered an analyst position at Kleinfelder, an environmental consulting firm in San Diego. I am very much looking forward to living in beautiful San Diego and gaining a new set of skills!

Molly Ford '98, Biology

I am currently a nurse practitioner in family medicine. A friend and I are going to Colorado to explore the Mesa Verde National Park. We have done all kinds of learning about the ancient Anasazi culture and their progression in life as traced by the ruins that are now preserved in the park. We are signed up for a full day interpretive tour, and will explore on our own the other two days, as well as visit the museum. We're arriving at the tail end of the Native American Arts Festival! Even 10 years after graduation, I still find the Native American studies so interesting!

Hayley Freedman '09

I will begin my term of service with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (AmeriCorps NCCC) as a Team Leader for NCCC Pacific Region, Class XVI for 2009-2010.

Ben Frey '08

After graduating from Willamette, I moved to New York City to meet up with my girlfriend, Mallory, who was finishing a post-grad publishing program at NYU. We've been living in Park Slope, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, for about a year now.

I started doing administrative temporary work in the financial services industry as soon as I arrived in New York and after two or three months of that, was hired by a firm called BBR Partners, LLC. We cater to ultra-high net worth families (minimum of $20 million in investable assets) and advise in all financial matters such as investing, tax planning, estate planning etc. Our primary strength is that we don't sell any financial products, custody money, or employ brokers-in other words; our advice is free of conflict. And yes, we managed to avoid Bernie Madoff, among others. My title is Portfolio Administrative Assistant-I reconcile the daily cash movements in our accounts, upload statements to our website, submit class action materials on behalf of our clients and vote their proxies as well. I also help to ensure that all of the information in our accounts is as accurate as possible.

Lael Grant '07

I am currently self-employed and working in the field of archaeology in New Mexico. Last year I spent seven months performing surveys and excavations of sites along the ancient south highway of the Chaco Complex. Lately I've been working on Cultural Resource Management and Archaeology and Pecos National Monument Complex. In addition, I've been performing survey and excavation of sections along the Historic Santa Fe Trail.

Amy Hagelin '08

I work at Habitat for Humanity Chile in Santiago, Chile as the Volunteer Mobilization Coordinator.

Adrienne Hall '07

I am attending the University of Pennsylvania Nursing School and hopefully will graduate by the end of 2010 with a BSN. I am considering sub-matriculating into the pediatric master's program soon. I was super excited to see that Phillipe Bourgois is an Anthropology professor here at Penn and that he is doing a research project with one of the nursing professors. I remember really enjoying his book during anthropological theory class. Even though I am not an anthropology student anymore, it still influences my academic life daily.

Helena Hoffman '05

I am a candidate for the master's degree in public policy program from UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy.

Gillian Holland '05

I will be attending AT Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Mesa, Arizona (it's a 3 year old osteopathic university featuring an integrated curriculum). My fiancé and I are moving to Arizona next week for medical school and returning to Sacramento next year for our wedding! It turns out my mentor neighborhood doctor here in Sacramento was an anthropology major at Harvard and really enjoyed the unique perspective it gave her in medical school.

Heather Hudson '06

After living at poverty level for one full year as an Americorps Vista Volunteer, I was fortunate enough to get hired on by the amazing organization that I did my service at. I am now the Grants Coordinator for El Centro de la Raza, a non-profit organization serving as the voice and hub of the Latino community here in Seattle. We provide over 23 different programs and I am responsible for writing 95% of the grants to support them.

I credit my previous studies of anthropology, studying abroad in South America for a year and my amazing professors for helping to lay the foundation for this current path. I am always ready to engage in conversation about anthropology and my degree has provided me with great insight and continues to force me to understand new perspectives.

Shun Kaneko '02

I work for a German auto company called Daimler AG and work as an Executive Assistant to the Vice President. I'm based in the Tokyo office and provide business support to and advise the Vice President in Japan.

Beth Kowal '02

Since I graduated in 2002, I went to teach English in Iwate, Japan for two years. I co-taught English in a junior high school in a small village of 4,000 people. I also taught lessons to elementary school students and adults on a weekly basis. I returned to the U.S. in 2004. I spent time in Spokane, WA working at an outdoor equipment retail company. I also spent a year as an AmeriCorps member in Spokane, WA. I was a Literacy Program Coordinator. I developed community reading programs in a high poverty elementary school, matched over 50 community volunteers to read with 100 students, and coordinated a neighborhood-wide reading night.

I then began graduate school at SIT (School for International Education) Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT in 2008. I spent a year taking classes on campus. My major will be in international education. The second year of my master's program requires an internship. Willamette has had prior interns from SIT and I applied to be the graduate intern at the Office of International Education at Willamette for the 2009-2010 school year. And, here I am. I will work here from Aug. 2009-May 2010. My major responsibility will be working with the Language in Motion program where we encourage study abroad returnees and international students to give presentations to classrooms in Salem Keizer School District. I look forward to it!

Marcella Kriebel '07

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has offered me a spot in the Advanced level internship program. I will get the chance to work in about four different departments during my time there, and will also be attending many workshops and lectures about museum operations. This includes the topics of art history, conservation, exhibition design, and registration.

My brother and I are currently (2009) living outside Wellington, New Zealand on a family's farm helping out with the daily chores--some wood chopping, feeding the sheep and horses, and baking bread are some highlights of our days so far. We both have gained a lot of wine knowledge while working the grape harvest March-May, and the traveling afterwards so far has been fantastic.

Arija Linauts '05

I received my M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. Currently I am an Associate for the Policy and Advocacy Leadership Initiative with Teach for America.

Steven Malick '07

After serving with Teach for America in New Jersey 2007-09, I am now a middle school teacher, teaching Mathematics, Science, and Debate at the Bronx Lighthouse Charter School (BLCS), Lighthouse Academies. I don't know how to describe how my studies have impacted my work at BLCS and in urban education. The way anthropology asks us to examine the world is how I examine my classroom and how I can connect with my kids to push them academically. Many of the reasons that I am an effective teacher here can be traced back to my studies in anthropology. I'll be going to Hunter College in the fall to get my Masters in Education.

Alina Mankin '07

I have just finished my two-year commitment with Teach for America teaching Special Education in Oakland, CA. During my time in TFA I also received a master's in education and two teaching credentials from Alliant International University in San Francisco. Next year I will be piloting a new Special Education program at a middle school in Oakland, teaching a self-contained class for students with social-cognitive deficits.

Danielle Mathey '01

After graduating from Northwestern University School of Law I worked as a Staff Attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, GA. Currently, I am a Litigation Associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, LLP in New York.

I have found that the research skills and multidisciplinary approach learned in my anthropological studies have been invaluable. I learned to ask the questions and seek the information that enables me to have a broader understanding of the issues in a given case. As a result, I relate better to my clients; understand my opposition better; and have been able to take my advocacy to a level that includes the entire picture surrounding the case, be it a social issue or an industrial particular. My anthropological studies are key to my pro bono work, which largely centers on immigration and asylum. These cases have more than once caused me to pull out old books from past anthropology courses for reference, and I have directly relied on those courses for insights into a particular asylum claim, and the best way to present its unique circumstances.

Maria Montes '05

I am currently working for the Los Angeles Unified School District as a Spanish teacher, just about to start my fourth year. I have been teaching for three years, mainly English and Ancient Civilizations/Cultures and Medieval World History, but had to switch this year due to a severe budget crisis in our school district. I loved teaching history because I could explore so much of the cultures with my students. Being an anthropology major really allowed me to delve into the cultures more and expose that to my students. I am hoping to begin a master's in anthropology program soon.

Jennifer Myrick '99

My current job title is: Admissions Advisor and Student Records Coordinator at Kodiak College, an extended campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage. I have been working at Kodiak College, UAA for 5 years. After graduating in 1999 from Willamette and before starting to work at Kodiak College, I spent my summers commercially fishing for salmon. In the winters I traveled, sailed in Florida and the Bahamas, worked for the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, and spent a legislative session in Juneau working for Kodiak's House Representative.

I am currently pursuing a Master of Education in Counseling from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (by distance delivery) and have 6 classes left. My fiancée and I are getting married this coming November. A bachelor's degree in anthropology provided the perfect foundation to help me connect with, understand, and communicate well with people.

Mara Ongman '00

Three years ago I graduated from the University of Washington's Master of Social Work program. For two years I worked for Washington State as a child welfare social worker and specialized in working with Native American children, families and tribes. Last year I took a job as a School Social Worker at the University of Washington's Experimental Education Unit. This is an early childhood school (birth-kindergarten) for kids with special needs. I enjoy my job immensely as it combines so many of my interests and passions.

My Willamette anthropology experience, and in particular my senior thesis work on the social construction of disability, has informed my practice and fueled my passion for disability and social justice issues. Not only was my Willamette experience important to my development, but it has helped me become a better mentor and teacher to the adult learners that come through the University.

Joanna Piatek Sooper '99

I am in my seventh year of teaching English as a Second Language with the North Clackamas School District. I do think my Anthropology major is useful in my everyday life. Cultural awareness and empathy are key parts to education and parent communication. Another benefit of teaching is travel time. My husband and I continue to save our pennies all year to experience another part of the world as often as we can.

Last summer we explored Beijing and Northern Thailand. I took cooking classes in Chiang Mai in a woman's home. I think it was one of the best things I have ever done!

Here is a bit about it:

Edith Polanco '09

I am currently applying for a position as an academic support coordinator for Hacienda Community Development Corporation in Portland.

Sarah Potts '07

I'm an Associate Marketing Manager at Pacific Coast Feather Company in Seattle, WA.

Kurt Reeser '02

Currently, I work as a Project Supervisor of the Washington Reading Corps with the Educational Service District 112 in Vancouver, Washington. My main responsibilities include recruiting, managing, training and supporting AmeriCorps and VISTA members who serve with the Washington Reading Corps (WRC) program at ESD 112. It is my responsibility to work with participating schools and head start programs to ensure that they are fulfilling grant requirements and obligations and make sure my program is running as smoothly as possible. I am in charge of communicating program success and progress to the Washington Service Corps (our direct funding source), state AmeriCorps and VISTA partners, local legislators, and media. I currently manage nearly 30 AmeriCorps members serving in 12 different schools in the communities of Kelso, Vancouver, Stevenson, Carson, White Salmon, Klickitat, Wishram and Goldendale. In short the WRC program places AmeriCorps members in elementary schools and head start centers to provide additional tutoring to young students in reading and pre-literacy skills. Our members serve full time for a year and receive a modest living allowance each month and a scholarship upon completion of the program.

My job requires me to interact with an extremely diverse mixture of people on a daily basis and help others resolve conflict, solve problems and communicate effectively despite differences. Furthermore, my job requires me to work in many small and remote communities across SW Washington and build relationships and trust with the schools and community members we serve. I feel that my background in anthropology has been critical to my success in managing this program.

Daniel Rivas '02

I moved to Portland in early 2010 and am pursing copywriting/marketing/communications opportunities. I've just started doing some provisional work with a company called Looptworks ( It's a start-up that designs clothing from excess materials. I have a MFA in Creative Writing from University of Michigan and am also writing fiction, but with mixed success.

Natahlia Rubin '07

I am currently working as a lead preschool teacher but this will end in about two weeks. I have been with this preschool for one year and a half. I am currently getting my Masters in Social Work degree at Eastern Washington University. I am hoping that this avenue will allow me to work with refugees and to eventually work out of the country in Aid and Relief efforts. Starting this spring I will be interning with Idaho Child Welfare, because refugee populations are not an option in Spokane, WA. Anthropology is still my passion and has given me a unique way to view the world and the diversity of peoples I am in constant contact with. Willamette prepared me well for the future and was an amazing experience. Thank you all for your passion.

Bryan Short '05

Currently I do copywriting for front end and back end campaigns. I also work for HDR photography, PPC (pay per click) campaign engineering, and CRM (customer relationship management) with website integration, shopping cart, function, cross sells, up sells, list pollination, squeeze pages, and all things response.

Carly Smith Kenagy '06

After graduating in May of 2006 I spent the next three years working for a small business/technology consulting firm in Portland. I first worked in accounts payable/accounts receivable for a client, and then I worked on various projects as a Business Consultant. My employer was the firm Strategic Solutions NW, LLC, based in Beaverton. In 2010, I'm completing the post-baccalaureate requirements for the Speech-Language Pathology program, and applying to the graduate program for the Fall of 2010. My anthropological studies have greatly informed my decision to enter the field of speech-language pathology, in which I'll be able to combine my love of people with my love of language and scientific study (I was also a Spanish major and nearly a Chemistry minor). I'm excited to be able to apply my knowledge of ethnographic techniques and my anthropological understanding to this service-oriented field. Whether I work in the schools or in a hospital I will surely encounter people with a wide variety of backgrounds, and I will strive to treat them as whole people, taking into account their cultural and linguistic contexts in addition to their clinical pathologies.

Theresa K Somrak '09

I cannot believe it's approaching a year since graduation! After graduating in May 2009, I started a State/National AmeriCorps position with a social service non-profit in Portland. I worked with the anti-poverty nonprofit Impact Northwest (until recently known as Portland Impact) in their Brentwood-Darlington Community Center in SE Portland. I was in the Parent Child Development Services, with the title of Parent Child Support Specialist, aiding the department in general and supporting the staff of Parent Child Specialists. It has been a fabulously enriching experience as I've not only learned a great deal about social work, strength-based practices and my organization's philosophy, and the non-profit sector, but also have had the opportunity to go to many professional trainings and learn more about myself and what it is I do want to apply myself and my professional skills to. However, my 11-month term is coming to a close at the end of April, and I feel as if I am in a much similar place to the situation I found myself after graduation: having just completed a great learning experience and facing the great unknown world of "real" employment.

But I do feel much more prepared with a whole 10 months of concrete application of and building on the strong foundation of skills I developed during my undergrad years at WU. I am so thankful for this foundation, and remember each day that I would not be where I am without the wonderful people and resources that have nurtured and challenged me to make me who I am with the tools I have today. As an AmeriCorps volunteer I live on an at-poverty-level stipend from the government, and it is quite a challenge to make ends meet. As I work with families who have much greater hardships and less privilege than myself, I am reminded that I am not "poor", just "broke" -- the difference being that, even though I have no cash flow, I have the internal and external resources to improve my situation. I am grateful to Willamette and all the faculty and staff there who have touched my life and guided me to this place of opportunity. Thank you!

Brian Stuhr '05

I am currently in my final year of graduate study at the University of Colorado at Denver. I am pursuing both a Master of Landscape Architecture degree and a Master of Urban Design degree. I will also be receiving a historic preservation certificate.

My anthropology background acquired at Willamette has been invaluable in my graduate studies. I have applied fieldwork ethics working with community members in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and the Make It Right Foundation to assist in designing a redevelopment strategy that is both appropriate and sustainable. My anthropology training has helped me to better understand the cultural landscape as well as the natural and built landscapes.

Damon Terzaghi '05

I currently work in Washington D.C. performing national policy and program development for the Medicaid program, the nation's public health care program for individuals with disabilities, people with low-incomes and the elderly. Willamette's Anthropology Department was instrumental in preparing me for my current career in health care. Whenever I am working with the various populations who are enrolled in government and private health insurance, the ability to understand different perspectives, mindsets and cultures is invaluable. Many of my supervisors and colleagues have commented on how well anthropology's lessons apply to all kids of health and human service programs.

I'm also attending Trinity University in the evenings for a master's degree in health care administration. It's a blast, very busy, but very rewarding. I get to travel all over the country working with various groups around ways to make sure that people with disabilities and low income families get health care. I will know in a few weeks if I have passed my naval security clearance and gained a Navy Health Professionals Scholarship, guaranteeing me free medical school in exchange for service in their Medical Corps.

Kelsey A Walsh '09

I am currently a Teacher's Aide at the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, which is an extension of the Pacific Science Center.

Marianne Ward '08

I am currently working on a master's degree in sport management through the University of San Francisco. We just started our second year and I graduate in May '10. I am also working at the University of Southern California (USC), University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), as a Project Coordinator on grants that work to make systematic changed to California's health care and how it deals with Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN). Finally, this past year (08-09) I was the assistant varsity softball coach at La Salle High School in Pasadena, CA, which is also my alma mater.

Melissa Wheeler '04

I teach a World Cultures and a World Languages class in a Roseburg, Oregon, middle school. I feel incredibly fortunate that the principal saw my resume at a job fair three years ago, called me up, and said my background looked perfect for that job! Due to the nature of that position, I use anthropology every day. I teach my students to think anthropologically when approaching a new culture, language, or idea that they haven't encountered before - to see the logic and reason in how another group does something, not to just say "they're weird!" Additionally, I believe I approach my students as subjects sometimes-I have to figure out what's meaningful to them and how they're seeing something in order to make my instruction relevant to their lives. I couldn't not be an anthropologist every day! I'm incredibly grateful for the training I received at Willamette!

Amelia Williams '02

Currently I am an English Language Development (ELD) teacher for Kindergarten through 3rd grade students in the Beaverton School District. I came back to Oregon after receiving a M.A. in Teaching from the School for International Training (World Learning) in Brattleboro, VT and did student teaching in Massachusetts. I feel as though what I learned in my Anthropology studies at Willamette continually resurfaces. In my current work with 5-9 year old English language learners and their families, I often think about the culture of public schools and whether or not we are creating a welcome learning community for all families. I feel lucky to be working with great kids, who have great stories and teach me a lot. Hopefully what they learn in my little English groups will in turn empower them as learners in school and beyond.

Kimmy Wilson

I am currently on maternity leave after having our first child on March 1st. I am taking a year off to stay home but before that I was teaching kindergarten in Denver Public Schools. I went back to school and received my master's degree in educational psychology with an emphasis in growth and development in 2008, also from University of Colorado at Denver. I will go back to teaching for the 2010-2011 school year.

Adam Withycombe '98

I am currently teaching 3rd grade at an inner-city school in Knoxville, TN. It may seem far removed from anthropology, but I honestly use my degree on a regular basis. I started my teaching career with a middle school Social Studies position in mind, but found myself using my Spanish in elementary schools. I taught two years of bilingual 5th grade in Woodburn, OR, followed by 2 years of bilingual 3rd grade in Walla Walla, WA. I then got my chance at middle school Social Studies working with talented and gifted students in Walla Walla for a year. Culture is a large part of middle school Social Studies, and I really tried to bring my anthropological interests into play with this group. I try to tie human geography, ecology, and religious traditions together so that my students see patterns in world cultures.

My wife, Jenny, took and has subsequently finished a PhD program in sport psychology at the University of Tennessee, which is what has brought me here. Now that I am working with a population very different from my previous experiences, I find myself using anthropology both in my teaching materials as well as means of reaching a diverse student population. Constantly thinking about cultural differences allows me to learn from my students, though I still cannot seem to get used to the southern drawl. I plan to work towards my administrative certificate in the next few years, as I tend to see things in big pictures.

Jenelle Woodlief '05

I am currently a doctoral student of social policy and US healthcare policy at the Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management.