Catching up with Emma Britton, class of ’07

We recently caught up with Emma Britton and asked her to tell us a little bit about her first semester of graduate school. Here’s her reply:

After graduating in 2007, I decided to stay in Tacoma get my Masters in Teaching at UPS. The capstone class in the program required me to write a thesis based on what I had learned during my student teaching experience. My focus was on trying to create a learning space in which students could start reflecting on their socio-cultural identities. This experience really forced me to re-evaluate my thinking with regards to the direction of my budding career. I loved teaching, but I could not shake my interest in social and cultural issues; an interest that started when I was in the Comparative Sociology Department as an undergraduate at UPS. I decided to move back to Salem, Oregon (where I grew up), and started teaching at Chemeketa Community College while also brainstorming about how I could get into graduate program in anthropology.

I think everyone’s graduate school search process is a little different depending on where their priorities lie. I started to realize that the search for the right graduate program is a lot like the search for the perfect pair of jeans – they don’t have to be the fanciest brand, or the most expensive pair in the mall, but they have to fit well in all the right places. And just because someone else might rave about a certain program, doesn’t mean it will fit you perfectly too. In my case, there were three very important features by which I assessed graduate programs. First, I wanted to find a program that focused on research that I was also interested in. For me, this jeans metaphor translated into finding a program committed to research on circuits of transnational migration, and education in a globalized context. Along with that, I needed to find an advisor who not only shared those research interests, but also had the time and desire to guide me through the graduate experience. Not all professors are interested in working with graduate students, or make the time!

Secondly, I wanted to find a program that utilized an applied approach to anthropology. An applied approach uses the tools of anthropology to help solve everyday social problems out in the world. On a totally pragmatic level, this is particularly attractive to me because I feel that an applied degree could make me more competitive when the time comes for me to graduate and get a job. On a more intuitive or ‘gut’ level, I felt like the approach spoke to me because applied work is scholarship in action – research that tries to address problems and ultimately make people’s lives better. As idealistic as that may sound, I know that work that is driven by that goal is work that I want to be involved with.

The third thing I needed was to find a program that could help me fund my degree. Because I had already had teaching experience, I was interested in working as a graduate teaching assistant. However, there are also research assistant positions that graduate programs offer to help students pay for tuition and, many times, living expenses. Besides not having to take out tons of student loans, working to pay for my own graduate experience is a source of a lot of personal pride for me.

After a lot of researching, a lot of time putting application materials together, and a considerable amount of time waiting and hoping, I found my way to the Applied Anthropology program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Right now, I think I’m still in the breaking-in phase of the graduate experience. I love having a lot of flexibility in my daily schedule, but being a graduate student requires a lot of initiative!  I am taking a lot of classes, teaching undergraduates, and designing research which focuses on the experiences of Latin American immigrants in institutions of higher education in the U.S. and in Spain. Because I just started graduate school this past fall, I’m not sure where my graduate school experience will take me, but I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to find out!

Good luck with the new semester, Emma.

Upcoming Talk: Extraction, Consumption and Indigenous Politics in Peru

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Drs. Maria Elena Garcia and Jose Antonio Lucero (University of Washington) will be presenting on their research in Peru. This research should be of great interest to students in the CSOC department. Here’s the abstract:

While the extraction of natural resources has a long history in Peru, this panel provides new approaches to understanding human projects to “develop” Amazonian and Andean resources. María Elena García will explore the impact of the commercialization of Andean animals, especially the guinea pig or cuy. José Antonio Lucero will examine conflicts between Indigenous communities and extractive industries (including mining, oil exploration, and filmmaking).

Key Information:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
4:30 – 5:30 PM
Murray Board Room
University of Puget Sound
Sponsored by Latin American Studies.

Summer Research Opportunity in China

Hi all,

Current students in the CSOC department should consider this opportunity to conduct research in China as part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The project is focused on environmental issues and is ideal for ethnographically-trained students. All expenses are paid. Successful applicants also receive a stipend. The deadline for applications is February 15, 2012.

Here are the details:

The Asian Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh, the National Science Foundation, the Center for Historical Environment and Socioeconomic Development of Northwest China at Shaanxi Normal University and the Northwest Socioeconomic Development Research Center of Northwest University announce the call for applications for the 2012 NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program entitled “Negotiations and Impacts: Water Policy Across China’s Loess Plateau.” This unique program in social science research will be conducted in Pittsburgh, PA, and in Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces, China in the summer of 2012. Twelve highly-qualified undergraduates and a team of faculty mentors will undertake collaborative research on how economic development and societal change is impacting China’s already precarious environmental position across the Yellow River Loess Plateau. The six-week program will be conducted between June 12 and July 22, 2012.

The program’s primary objective is to mentor students through the complete process of designing a research agenda and performing primary research in the social sciences at an international field site. It includes a unique combination of close mentoring, student/faculty teamwork, multidisciplinary research, and international field experience. Student participation will be encouraged from all fields of the social sciences, including sociology, anthropology, geography, environmental studies, economics, political science, Asian studies, history, and land/resource management. Juniors and non-graduating seniors are particularly encouraged to apply. Graduate students are not eligible. Applicants are limited to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Faculty mentors include Pierre Landry, Roberta Soltz, and James Cook of the University of Pittsburgh.

Costs of participation (travel, room, board), including the payment of a significant research stipend, will be paid by the program. Student participants are only responsible for their travel to/from the University of Pittsburgh and passport/visa fees.

Deadline for applications is February 15, 2012. Additional information and application forms can be found at

An Opportunity in Global Public Health

Current students in the department might be interested in this opportunity:

The Washington-based Global Health Nexus project, based in the Puget Sound region, is sponsoring a competition for undergraduate teams in the state. The competition seeks to encourage students to create solutions, awareness, and innovations in global health. Teams of three or more undergraduate students propose and submit a project that addresses a global health challenge (some suggestions from experts can be found here). Prizes include $10,000, tours and visits with global health organizations, and more.

The deadline for this cycle is January 13, 2012. That will be difficult for us as we’re out of session. Luckily, extensions are possible by contacting Stephanie Grow.

Here’s the website with instructions and the short, four-item preliminary application.