The Department of Social, Cultural and Justice Studies anthropology program recently hosted a virtual Anthropology Careers Panel, where four alumni with very different career paths spoke about their professional experiences and how the skills they gained as anthropology majors served them in their roles.
When she organized the event, Emma McDonell said she had a few goals in mind, but at the forefront she was hoping to create better connections for students and demonstrate just how flexible their degrees can be.
“In liberal arts programs like anthropology, there are a huge variety of careers students go into,” explained McDonell, visiting assistant professor of anthropology.
“They go into law. They go into social work. They run businesses. The openness and flexibility of this kind of degree can be both really exciting and scary. It’s important that students know how to communicate about the skills they have, from writing and critical analysis to research design and cultural sensitivity.”
The alumni who spoke at the panel represented diverse careers, from an attorney to a nonprofit senior project manager to a historic preservationist, who offered tips and insight to current students.
Senior anthropology major Kinsley Kilgore said hearing the alumni testimonials gave her new hope and ideas for careers she had never considered. The experience “further cemented” her confidence and comfort level with her major.
“The most important thing I learned during this panel was how expansive the anthropology field could be, especially considering that many people don’t realize its potential to apply to any career path,” Kilgore added.
“I find the unexpected career paths somewhat enticing, and I’m excited for what will come next in my post-UTC plans.”
Check out a few highlights from featured alumni:
Senior Project Manager, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
“One of the most invaluable skills I got from majoring in anthropology was learning how to carry out social research. In one class, we conducted a needs assessment where we actually assessed the needs of individuals in the Chattanooga community with physical handicaps using interviews and surveys. Both of the skills in terms of survey and interview research design have been so useful in my career even though I am not a research, per se. This skillset has been so useful in every job I’ve had.
“Another skillset that I use all the time has to do with cultural sensitivity. In my last job, and in many companies these days, you’re dealing with a global workforce. I was in my office in Washington, D.C., but our development teams were in India, Uruguay and France. We were working with people all over the world. In this environment, being sensitive to different needs and ways of communicating was extremely helpful.”
AmeriCorps VISTA, Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center
“So much of the work done to improve society is done from this very limited perspective on what people need and what could constitute improving people’s lives. One thing I really took away from my anthropology classes is that you have to start from a place of understanding rather than assuming you know or assuming that your reality applies to someone else’s. This perspective that values people own understandings of their lives is so important to creating better solutions to social problems.”
Abbey Vander Sluis
Historic Preservationist, Conservation Legacy at Chickamauga National Military Park, Ga.
“You don’t have to have it all figured out when you graduate. Over the years, I’ve learned I’m so happy I didn’t have my career and life figured out when I graduated college. It’s given me the opportunity to pursue many different opportunities and interests and experiment with new paths.”