Our growing number of alumnae and alumnus include people working nationally and internationally in a wide range of academic and non-academic fields, including museums, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, hospitals, and consulting firms among others. The following biographical sketches offer a glimpse of the exciting things people are doing with their anthropology degrees and how our program has contributed to their career goals. If you graduated from our program we invite you to submit a short bio and tell us what you’ve been up to! (For biographical submissions please contact Jackie Lillis-Warwick Rodriguez, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Roger Colten finished his B.S. at MSU in 1980. The MSU archaeological field program in Italy with Joe Chartkoff and the historic archaeology project in Mississippi had a big influence on his career path. He eventually completed M.A. and PhD degrees in anthropology and in archaeology, respectively. He did a little of everything (museums, teaching, CRM, post-doc at the Smithsonian) for a while and eventually went to the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University where he has held a position as a Collections Manager in the division of Anthropology for almost 20 years. See bio:
“Roger Colten joined the Peabody Museum as Collections Manager in the Division of Anthropology in 1997 and was promoted to Senior Collections Manager in 2006. In addition to managing the collections, he has continued analyzing North American, European Paleolithic, and Caribbean prehistoric faunal remains from the museum’s collections and other locations.”
Mary Altair graduated from MSU’s Honors College in 1992. She was Psychology major with a minor in Anthropology. She then went to California State University, East Bay and graduated with an MA in Anthropology. She has studied the benefits of midwives in California, Psycho-social adjustment of refugees in Pakistan and rural birth options, and attitudes of female Yemeni students in community college. She is a tenured professor at Erie Community College where she teaches Psychology and Anthropology classes. She is also a Senior Adjunct professor at Niagara University where she offers Anthropology classes.
Clay Batko is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. Clay says that his undergraduate degree in anthropology from MSU helps him everyday in his job because he lives and works in another culture. In order to be successful in the work that he does, he must have an understanding and appreciation of this culture. He says that daily, he meets challenges and adversity, but because of his education, he is able to step back and observe the cultural differences for what they are: opportunities. They are opportunities for learning, both about Tanzanian culture and his own, that lead to growth. He says that the skill of participant observation, one highly stressed in anthropology, has helped him to effectively integrate into his village and make a life in Tanzania. Clay states that “This is crucial because people need to trust me if they are going to listen to me. In addition to cultural sensitivity, my experience as an anthropology student taught me about critical thinking and sustainability. Critical thinking in regards to how we view problems and solutions. Most situations are not black and white and in order to effectively help others, you must be able to put yourself in their shoes. I learned about sustainability by reading a number of ethnographies where anthropologists had the opportunity to help those around them due to their close proximity, but realized it wasn’t about giving people things. It is about empowering them to make the change in their own lives. Daily, I am thankful for my experience with anthropology at Michigan State because it prepared me to make a real difference in this world”.
Nicholas V. Passalacqua obtained his PhD from MSU’s Department of Anthropology. Dr. Passalacqua says that “While attending MSU for my undergraduate education, I first took some anthropology courses as electives for my major; however I quickly decided I was much preferred everything about anthropology than Psychology and changed my major and never looked back. I was most interested in biological anthropology and specialized in forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology. After completing my undergraduate education at MSU, I attended Mercyhurst University for my MS in Anthropology and then returned to MSU to complete my PhD in anthropology. I am now a Board Certified Forensic Anthropologist and an Assistant Professor and the Forensic Anthropology Program Coordinator for Western Carolina University”.
Rebecca Hasselbeck (Richart) graduated in 2012 with majors in Anthropology, History, and Spanish, which allowed her to first serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA with a nonprofit organization and then to continue her study of anthropology in graduate school. Rebecca is currently a PhD candidate in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Irvine. Her dissertation research focuses on social and labor relations in the U.S. horseracing industry to understand broader issues of work, immigration, and human-animal relations. Rebecca says that “Support from MSU Anthropology faculty allowed her to develop the research skills necessary for her successful application to graduate school and continued anthropological education. Additionally, my involvement in MSU’s Undergraduate Anthropology Club gave me leadership, organizational, and event planning skills that have been valuable in my work and continued studies. Go Green!”.
Joy Crabtree received a double major in psychology and anthropology from MSU. Joy states “I went on to graduate school in psychology and became a licensed psychologist. I currently work as a licensed psychologist for a hospital in pediatric psychology. I use anthropology with respect to working with patients and families from culturally diverse populations and backgrounds”.
Steven Keena graduated in 1985 from MSU with a BA in Anthropology and moved out to SF, CA in early 1987. Mr. Keena immediately landed a job as a telephone interviewer on an AIDS study in SF. He writes, “This study (and several subsequent longitudinal ones I worked on) was conducted on behalf of UCSF’s Center For AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) program. Initially we only spoke with men who identified themselves as gay or bi sexual. On other studies the focus was on a national segment of the population who was chosen at random after an elaborate selection process. Some of these interviews were conducted in Spanish.
There was much hesitation and hostility from some households selected so you had to be able to listen to their concerns carefully. The subjects discussed included the respondents’ general health, their sexual activities and drug usage. Never easy topics to discuss with strangers over the phone. Fortunately we were able to accomplish our goals and provide significant data to researchers”.
Rebecca Farnum is a 2012 EPA Marshall Scholar currently doing her PhD at King’s College London, looking at environmental peacebuilding in the Middle East and North Africa. Rebecca’s research looks at human-environment interactions and community-building/diplomacy efforts using nature as a bridge. Rebecca says about her work that “It’s very anthropologically informed – I’m doing what I have nicknamed a ‘topical regional ethnography’, using participant observation methods in the fields, very informal semi-structured interviews, participatory methods and feminist practices in research ethics and reflexivity, etc. All three of my research partner NGOs (from Morocco, Lebanon, and Kuwait) recently came to London to speak together on a conference panel around environmental peacebuilding – they don’t know each other except through me; it was a very cool exercise in connecting them, giving them space to swap resources, and making sure activist voices appeared in an academic place. ANP859, the graduate course I was able to take as part of my undergrad degree, has been hugely influential here. And of course my anthro faculty/work was critical in winning the scholarship”.
Rebecca also teaches high school students both in the classroom on critical media studies and anthropology of the Middle East courses as well as outdoor education, both of which make use of various techniques/skills/concepts/content learned on MSU anthro. Rebecca says that she has “a book out on the Kuwait Dive Team – not an academic book, but the methods for journalistic-style storytelling of the activism and history of the group were very anthro! http://www.amazon.com/dp/9990669600”
Danielle Steider coordinates the Less Commonly Taught Languages Program in the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages at Michigan State University. She also supervises all MSU Fulbright FLTAs hosted by the College of Arts and Letters. Her prior experience includes ESL/EFL teaching and teacher training at Michigan State University and The Pennsylvania State University, and in Egypt with the Binational Fulbright Commission and Niger with the Peace Corps.
Karen Meyer graduated from the Anthropology Department in 2006. After graduating, Karen served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer (Volunteer Coordinator & Family Services Manager). From 2006 to 2008 she also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity (Williamston, MI). From 2007 to 2008 she worked as a Social Work Assistant (UMHS Ann Arbor, MI). From 2008 to 2010 she was a Peace Corps Volunteer (Water & Sanitation) in Peru. From 2011 to 2016 she served as a
Program Director for Builders Beyond Borders (Norwalk, CT). In the present she is the New Business Development Coordinator (Population Services International, Washington, D.C.).
Karen states “I love helping people! Most of my work has been with non-profits and volunteering. While I do not work in anthropology specifically, I site my anthropological training during my years as MSU, as the way I approach development work. For instance, when I joined the Peace Corps, I was in a field with several engineers. When we reached our communities after training, my engineering friends wanted to jump right in and start doing projects. They often became frustrated at the slow pace, political bureaucracy, and “community development/involvement” that was required to get things done. Alternatively, I spent several months attending community meetings, hanging out with different people, doing surveys, and talking to community leaders before we held a meeting to determine what the most pressing need was for the town. In the end, I was able to push projects through because I had done the research and built relationships in order to know how to advance in an unfamiliar setting. Again, I believe it was my years of learning how to observe, discuss and analyze social behavior that led me to be successful in the work I do now in the international development field”.
Kate Frederick received her BA from MSU in 2008 in Anthropology with a specialization in Museum Studies. After graduating she worked for a year at Kingman Museum as a Collections Intern where she integrated her Anthropology and Museum Studies degrees to help repatriate artifacts in their collection. In 2009 Kate started her graduate work at Wayne State University in Detroit. While at Wayne State she had the opportunity to travel abroad and conduct archaeology in Ecuador, but she found her calling in Michigan Archaeology. With a change in focus to Michigan Archaeology, she completed her MA at Wayne State in the Spring of 2011. Kate states that “Since MSU has a renowned program in Great Lakes Archaeology, I began my Ph.D. here in the Fall of 2011. I have had profound success here at MSU during my graduate tenure, including publications and nationally recognized awards. My dissertation research uses experimental archaeology to consider the role of food storage in prehistoric hunter-gatherer communities. By understanding the technology behind subterranean food storage, I can further interpret the Late Woodland landscape of northern Michigan”.
Kevin Heuer, who graduated from MSU’s Department of Anthropology in 2003, states that “My cultural anthropology degree from MSU taught me how to uncover and understand the felt needs of a community. I also learned about food systems and food justice while at MSU. My 15 year career in the nonprofit sector has been about applying that knowledge and acting on it to create positive change. I’ve built a career fighting hunger domestically, currently as the Chief Operations and Programs Officer for Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County (CA). I get to explore ways to reduce food insecurity, support a healthier and more just local food system, and advocate for policy changes that would help break the cycle of reliance on charitable food for those living in poverty. My position allows me to have a profound impact on the welfare of those most in need in my community and I’m grateful for the seeds planted during my time in MSU’s Anthropology program”
Richard Clute graduated from MSU with a BA in 1967 and MA in 1969. He is currently a Curator at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan in Alpena and a visiting scholar at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China where he has taught cultural anthropology each spring semester for the past 8 years. Mr Clute taught anthropology for 28 years at Alpena Community College where he was the Social Science Department Chair for 14 years. He founded MCR, a cultural resource management group that has undertaken and completed more than 100 projects, to date. Mr Clute says “I like to think I am at mid-career and I continue to maintain contact with MSU faculty and classmates”.
Hilary Virtanen received her BA in English and Anthropology at MSU in 2003, later studying Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University (MA) and Scandinavian Studies/Folklore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (MA, PhD). She is currently assistant professor of Finnish and Nordic Studies at Finlandia University in the Upper Peninsula. There, she teaches courses incorporating language, folklore, literature, history, and anthropology, which she considers to be an important part of her orientation as a scholar. In addition to teaching a regular course in Cultural Anthropology, Hilary offers a course on Scandinavia’s indigenous Sámi people, cross-listed as an anthropology class. Finally, she offers a study-abroad course in Tampere, Finland, in which students learn directly about aspects of Finnish society and culture through social-scientific methods including participant-observation and interviewing. Hilary’s inclusion of anthropology in her undergraduate studies provided the strongest basis for her later interdisciplinary studies and career, and though her primary major was English while at State, her fondest memories are of her anthropology classes. (Shh…don’t tell the English Department!)
Anne Weathersby graduated from MSU in 1969 with a BA in Anthropology. Ms Weathersby states ”I put my undergraduate degree in anthropology to use immediately by going straight into a graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania upon graduation. I received a master’s degree from UPenn in South Asian Studies, with an emphasis on cultural anthropology. I also had an opportunity to spend a year at Delhi University through the American Institute of Indian Studies as an extension to my graduate program. My career path took many turns, including working as a business consultant to a number of government agencies. I eventually helped start a company that provides specialized news services to associations and companies on various topics. I have since retired and am currently a freelance photographer – employing the observation skills I learned as an anthropologist”.
Brian Skelly has been teaching Philosophy in the Connecticut/Massachusetts area for more than twenty-eight years. He is presently at the University of Hartford (since 1992) in West Hartford Connecticut and American International College in Springfield Massachusetts. After obtaining his B.A. in Anthropology at Michigan State University, he moved on to study Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome Italy, and later returned to earn his doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Brian’s interests vary from religion and music to world languages and culture. He regularly teaches a variety of Ethics courses as well as Critical Thinking, History of Philosophy and Introduction to Anthropology. He lives in Springfield MA with his wife, a middle school teacher.
Mr. Skelly states, “I have been teaching Anthropology for a number of years now, and it has had a lot of influence on my philosophical thinking. I see Anthropology, like Philosophy, as a vital connecting discipline, connecting the physical sciences with the life sciences and social sciences as well as with the arts, philosophy, health care, education, law, and education”.
Rodney Bransdorfer graduated from MSU in 1983 with BA degrees in both Anthropology and Spanish. Dr. Bransforfer says “At the time, I had no idea what I would do with those degrees but Cultural Anthropology, and Latin American studies in particular, was something I was fascinated with and one class led to another and on to the BA. After graduation, I fell into an opportunity to attend grad school in Spanish and went on to do an MA in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Texas followed by the Ph.D. in Linguistics from the U. of Illinois. Since 1991, I have been a professor of Spanish and Linguistics at several institutions, including the last 20 years at Central Washington University”.
Dr. Bransdorfer also says that “Even though I have focused more on Spanish and Linguistics since my undergrad days, I have always regarded my training in Anthropology as a key component in my education. My anthro professors at MSU taught me to view cultures from various perspectives and to observe rather than to judge, among many other important lessons. I honestly don’t think that I would be where I am today without that training. Cultural Anthropology tied in so perfectly with my interest in languages, linguistics and cultures that it almost seems like they should always be taught together. I don’t regret a single minute of the time that I dedicated to my Anthropology degree even though I didn’t apply it directly to my career. I had many excellent professors at MSU and I owe them all a debt of gratitude for what they contributed to my overall education. Anthropology at MSU = Priceless!”.
John P. Nass, Jr. is a native of Michigan. His education is in anthropology and archaeology with degrees from Michigan State University (BA 1974), Western Michigan University (MA 1980) and The Ohio State University (Ph.D. 1987). His wife Jean is from Ohio and attended Muskingum College (BA 1979) and California University (MA 2001). He is currently the Director of the Anthropology program at California University of Pennsylvania and professor in the Department of History, Politics and Society. Dr. Nass says that “Before accepting a position at California, I was the senior archaeologist for the consulting firm Archaeological Services Consultants, Inc. (ASC Group, Inc.), a large public archaeology consulting company based in Columbus, Ohio, from 1987-1990. As the senior archaeologist, I helped develop proposals, overviewed crews in the field, directed specific field undertakings, authored reports, and worked closely with staff from countless agencies and private companies in the Midwest. In 1990, I accepted a tenure-track position at California University of Pennsylvania. I am currently completing my 27rd year as a faculty member in the Anthropology Program at California. I am currently the director of our small program. Because California is a public university, our teaching load is four classes per semester. My responsibilities include teaching, advisement, and lots of committee work. My undergraduate time at Michigan State was pivotal to my continuing in Anthropology as a career. While I was initially interested in Mesoamerican archaeology, I credit working at Fort Michilimackinac and volunteering in the lab at the museum on campus for redirected my interest to both historical and eastern woodlands prehistory. I also credit Dr. Charles Cleland with helping me decide to stay with archeology and continuing to graduate school”.
Ryan Jelso graduated from MSU in 2013 with degrees in Anthropology (B.S.) and Environmental Studies (B.S.). After graduating, he joined the library and archival staff of the Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford as a Research Support Specialist. Demonstrating the critical thinking, writing and research skills that he developed under the guidance of MSU Anthropology faculty, Ryan was named an Associate Curator at The Henry Ford in 2016. He now works on developing digital content centered around the institution’s collections for their website. He says that influential experiences during his time as an MSU Anthropology student greatly helped him in developing his skill set. These experiences include, working with Dr. O’Gorman at Morton Village, the MSU Undergraduate Anthropology Club, the Campus Archaeology Program, and volunteering in MSU Museum’s archaeological collections. Ryan is highly appreciative of the time he spent with the MSU Department of Anthropology and looks forward to seeing where the skills he developed take him in the future.
Larissa Stenzel graduated from the MSU Honors College with a BA in Anthropology and a Minor in Spanish in 2011. During the program, she participated in the field school at Morton Village in Central Illinois. There, she assisted Dr. O’Gorman with research on gender in the Oneota/Mississippian settlement. She has been passionate about archaeology from an early age, spurred by multiple travels to Mayan archaeological sites of the Yucatan Peninsula. The MSU Anthropology program also enabled her to pursue her specific interest in that region in Dr. Pollard’s Mesoamerican archaeology class.
Upon graduation, Larissa spent half a year working in a yoga retreat in northern Michigan and then moved to Chicago to pursue her passion for Fair Trade. For most of the last five years, she has worked in management for two non-profit retailers of Fair Trade handicrafts. Her education in Anthropology was important for understanding and respecting the variety of cultures from which Fair Trade products are sourced. Her training also gave her valuable skills for managing staff and volunteers from different backgrounds.
Having recently returned to her home state of Michigan, Larissa is excited to reenter the world of academia. She has been accepted for the Master’s of Science in Information program at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she will pursue a specialization in Library Information Science with the goal of becoming an academic or public librarian. In this age of divisiveness, she wants to promote cultural understanding by facilitating access to reliable data and information. She is sure her anthropology degree will be a great asset toward this goal in graduate school.