Alumna Applying Anthropology: Dr. Anna Jefferson

Dr. Anna Jefferson, via Dr. Jefferson

Dr. Anna Jefferson, via Dr. Jefferson

Dr. Anna Jefferson first became interested in anthropology while she was an undergraduate. She turned to anthropology to give her a holistic framework she could use to more deeply and dynamically understand any issue. In May 2013, Dr. Jefferson graduated from MSU with her doctorate. Her dissertation research focused on the foreclosure crisis in Michigan, and conducted field research with housing counseling agencies, independent nonprofits that work with the state and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. She examined emerging notions of citizenship in the foreclosure crisis, and how these processes intersected with narratives of the American Dream.

Dr. Jefferson is currently a Senior Analyst in the Social and Economic Division at Abt Associates. They provide policy research, program evaluation, technical assistance; and program implementation for federal agencies, states and cities, organizations, international development organizations, and foundations. Dr. Jefferson conducts research and evaluation focusing on access to housing and consumer finance. She has worked on projects for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, New York City government, Corporation for National and Community Service, and Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Jefferson began working at Abt while she was writing her dissertation because her research directly related to their study about the outcomes of housing counseling, and filled their need for a subject matter expert.

The knowledge and skills she acquired while studying anthropology have been extremely valuable to her position. As the only PhD anthropologist at Abt, Dr. Jefferson believes she is able to look at questions and problems in a different way than her colleagues, and this approach brings both creativity and flexibility to her work. She serves as an internal consultant on ethnography, promoting participant observations, and other qualitative fieldwork for projects across all of Abt’s practice areas.

Her advice to current graduate students is to take advantage of the department and university’s support, and interdisciplinary and methods courses. She strongly suggests writing and talking to people about the value of anthropology so you can share its importance with non-anthropologists. In addition to this, she believes it is important to look at different career paths and possibilities. Dr. Jefferson is enthusiastic about her work, and welcomes students with questions about policy research or evaluation to contact her at

[This article is featured in the Winter 2014 Department of Anthropology Newsletter]