Devon Spencer (Anthropology major, Gender Studies minor, Class of 2014)
Following graduation, I moved home to Washington, D.C. and interned at a dating and domestic violence non-profit. Around this time, I changed my plan of two gap years and applied for a Master's in Social Work. Rather than macro or clinical practice, I'm drawn toward work at the community and group level. I'm excited to start at the University of Washington this fall (Master's in Social Work) because of its strong commitment to social justice and identity consciousness in social work. I hope to work with LGBTQ youth and young women’s empowerment. I believe that Anthropology has had a profound effect on where I am today. My coursework and thesis were centered on topics I am most passionately curious about, for example, gender, art, and urban spaces. Ideas that I learned from coursework and professors led me to my thesis, titled “Identity (In)Visibility: Community, Spaces, and Material.” In my senior project thesis I questioned the nuances of queer and radical safe space in commercial settings. Shaping safe spaces and discussing identity is crucial in social work and my senior project was a great way of being a self-reflexive researcher. I am so happy that I studied Anthropology because it is uniquely interdisciplinary. I think the major has allowed me to see current events, art, language, and history through a different lens. My background in Anthropology will be beneficial in social work because I strive for deeper understanding, communication, and explanation across boundaries of race, gender, religion and socioeconomic status.
Samuel Lieberman (Anthropology major, Class of 2014)
I am currently a student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. I have been freelancing for various publications (including VICE and The Atlantic), writing longer form articles, making short videos, and trying to break into the jungle of media-making. Whatever eye I have for understanding how cultural forces work, finding universal themes in stories, and recognizing telling details — I owe it to studying Anthropology at Purchase. I recently wrote a story for Vice about the railfan community (people who are obsessed with the NYC subway system). I would not have been able to really dig into what threatened their sense of self if not for learning, as an Anthro student, about how communities construct an imagined authenticity.
Being an undergrad is about learning to think. The best storytellers are those that can make the best connections. If I hadn’t spent my undergraduate career thinking about how meth-making relates to capitalism and how cat cafés can represent post-economic bubble alienation in Japan, I would not be able to make the connections to tell a good story. Look at your Facebook feed. Everyone fancies themselves a low-level social scientist. Get the thinking, listening and looking skills while you are in an environment where that is all you have to worry about!
See Samuel's recent work for VICE and The Atlantic.
Max Lenik (Anthropology major, History minor, Class of 2013)
After graduating from Purchase College in May of 2013, I was able to immediately begin applying the skills and knowledge gained from the anthropology program to my goal of starting a career in museums. Since graduating from Purchase, I have been able to work or intern for major institutions including the Field Museum in Chicago, IL where I did ethnographic research. From there I went on to work for the International Spy Museum, where I did everything from lead tours to handle objects and fabricate new exhibits, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and their annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where I produced video and media content, and Smithsonian Exhibits, where I had the opportunity to help fabricate exhibits for the Smithsonian. All of these opportunities, as well as being able to work for a few exhibit design firms, were made available to me in Washington, D.C. where I currently live with my girlfriend of four years and our cat, Sylvester.
I also recently received my master’s degree from the Museum Studies program at the George Washington University, one of the top museum studies programs in the world. Their two-year program gave me an unparalleled education in museum exhibit development, introduced me to a vast network of dedicated and knowledgeable museum professionals, and gave me the opportunity to find my niche in the museum industry. I recently completed my fourth summer with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, this time as its assistant transportation coordinator, where I was responsible for managing the transportation of the nearly 1,000 performers, artists, and scholars to and from the festival site, the hotel, and local airports. I have recently started a position as Project Administrator at Design & Production, Inc. in Virginia.
I was able to do all of this thanks to both the anthropological skill-set I honed while at Purchase as well as the support system and learning environment I was encouraged by. Even though I transferred into the anthropology program at Purchase as a junior, I was quickly accepted and brought up to speed with the rest of the program. The professors were all eager to advise, teach, and assist me with everything from class scheduling to senior project and professional guidance. My love of anthropology comes from my love of learning about new things and the anthropology program at Purchase taught me a lot about how to do anthropological fieldwork research, the origins of anthropological theory, and current practices and studies of the field, but most importantly, it taught me how to learn in a way that has guided me into pursuing a meaningful and rewarding dream career as a museum professional.
Kai Lord-Farmer (Anthropology major, Class of 2011, Best Anthropology Senior 2011)
Upon graduating from Purchase College in 2011 with a B.A. in Anthropology, I moved to Conakry, Guinea for one year, teaching English classes at a neighborhood library and studying traditional West African music. While in Guinea, I was introduced to the complexities of urban life in a modern African city, particularly the variety of environmental and economic issues the city is confronting. Upon returning to the U.S., I was compelled to pursue a career in Urban Planning, exploring the dynamics of urban life and how cities in the U.S. and abroad will confront emerging global issues such as climate change. Having now lived in California for three years, I have worked on a variety of environmental issues including campaigns for solar power legislation and research on ocean conservation. In 2016, I received a Master’s in City and Regional Planning and M.S. in Transportation Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, focusing on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the urban environment. I now work for Ascent Environmental, an environmental planning and consulting firm in Sacramento, CA. My work focuses on climate change planning, climate adaptation, and environmental policy. While studying Anthropology at Purchase College, I gained the essential research, writing, and critical thinking skills I needed to pursue a career in city planning. Considering the essential role people and culture have in creating and recreating urban life, city planning often addresses themes central to Anthropology including language, politics, and economic and social systems and how these topics influence and are influenced by the urban environment. To see highlights of my recent work, check out my website!
Catherine Owens (Anthropology major, MSA minor, Class of 2013)
Social and Cultural Anthropology is described on the SUNY Purchase website as, “… the study of human differences and commonalities in a world of global and transnational connections”. To a young woman currently working as an Executive Assistant & Writer’s Assistant on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver you would assume that these two worlds would never collide when, in fact, it is my anthropology studies that brought me to this point in my post-graduate experience.
During my senior year I was lucky to begin a production internship with The Colbert Report, a news satire on Comedy Central. Every minute leading up to my first was filled with anxiety. How would an anthropology student fit in with a group of interns who were all film & TV majors? How would I know what to do at a TV studio? Would I fail because of my lack of knowledge and experience? The answers were all most decidedly no because of what I was being taught as an Anthropology student at Purchase. It was my ability to ask the right questions at the right time to the right people and develop the skills to assimilate into an unknown environment—this was the real push that brought me success as an intern.
My internship at The Colbert Report led to my first & now my current television job post-grad. Immediately after graduating I began working as a Production Assistant on NBC’s The Sound of Music Live! Once that show ended, the connections I had made from The Colbert Report lead me to an undefined position on a brand new HBO television show with no name, no staff, no office and no studio. That show is now called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – a show I am so proud to be a part of.
John demands the expertise of researchers, writers, and producers to take on huge amorphous topics like net neutrality, immigration reform, FIFA, incarceration, etc. and make them digestible, interesting, and above all else, funny to an indiscernible audience. Sounds intense right? Well the same can be said for any young anthropology student who is beginning ethnographic research. Your professors at Purchase will make those same demands and it is up to you to peel back the layers and create a body of work that can be understood both by experts and laypersons.
As you navigate the world as an employee, you are truly doing so as an “employee-anthropologist.” Each career, each office, and each team you work for will demand you to hone in on the skills you develop as an Anthropology major.
Rafay Rashid (Anthropology & MSA double-major, Class of 2013, Best Anthropology Senior 2013) performing with his band Ravi Shavi