Featured Graduate Student, Kehli Henry

Kehli Henry pictureKehli Henry, PhD candidate, developed an interest in anthropology early on, deciding to pursue it as her major at Central Michigan University. The nuance of anthropological theory, as well as the attention to cultural factors gave her an appreciation for the complexity within the field. Her previous work with an American Indian tribe allowed her to see the utility of anthropological theory in the issues she dealt with. MSU provided the perfect fit for her graduate studies because of the faculty, and the focus on both medical anthropology and applied work.

Since her undergraduate work, Kehli has been deeply concerned with using an applied and community-based approach to better understand education, drug and alcohol use in American Indian communities, American Indian data sovereignty and data protection, as well as criminal justice and historical trauma. Her dissertation research encompasses many of these topics focusing upon a Midwest American Indian community to document and understand the ways in which the discussions surrounding the “War on Drugs” represent drug and alcohol users, how these representations affect the lives of individual American Indian drug users, and how they affect their community.

While at MSU, Ms. Henry received a University Enrichment Fellowship, giving her the resources to focus on her academic work and research. She also received the Susan Applegate Krouse Graduate Student Fellowship in 2016/17, and a Wenner Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, allowing her to quickly move onto the data analysis phase of her dissertation. Kehli hopes to graduate in the Spring of 2019.
Ms. Henry hopes to offer very applied and practical research, evaluation, and information to the communities she works with, aligning her research with their wants and needs and contributing to the conversation around responsible conduct of research for both partners and participants. She wants to get at the underlying issues surrounding drug and alcohol use and treatment in American Indian communities, to provide information useful to tribal communities in making decisions and to contribute to the de-stigmatization of drugs and drug users for a more equitable approach to policy and treatment.

Kehli reports that many teachers and mentors, both inside and outside of the academic world, have contributed to her success. Her husband, parents and grandparents have always been hugely supportive and influential in her approaches to complex issues. Kehli has also been fortunate that she has had the opportunity to learn from many tribal community members and elders. Her undergraduate advisor at CMU, Dr. Athena McLean had a huge influence in developing her anthropological thinking. Her dissertation committee at MSU has also been very supportive and influential. Dr. Heather Howard, chair of her committee; Dr. Mindy Morgan; Dr. John Norder and Dr. Django Paris have all helped Kehli to improve the ways in which she engages, interacts with, and holds herself accountable to the communities she works with. In addition, the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP) and Indigenous Graduate Student Collective (IGSC) have both offered a multitude of opportunities allowing her to grow and learn with other scholars concerned with Indigenous issues and communities.

Kehli gets the most enjoyment out of interacting with American Indian nations/communities in ways that are both useful for them and can inform and develop her own perspectives and understandings. She plans to work directly for American Indian tribes and stay engaged with anthropological scholars and professional organizations after graduation. Outside of her academic research, Kehli is passionate about animals (especially dogs), the performing arts, Major League Soccer, and reading science fiction & fantasy for fun.

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