Catching up with Jessy Arends, Class of 2010

Jessy Arends’ evaluation of Morocco: two thumbs up.

A little bird told me that Jessy has just been accepted into an Anthropology graduate program. I asked her for a detailed and blog-appropriate update. Here it is:

I never thought I would live in the South.  More so, I never thought I would live in the Deep South.  I never thought I’d live in rural Mississippi, in a town with a population of 24,324.  Nevertheless, I just made my decision to accept a research assistantship and matriculate in the Applied Anthropology Master’s program at Mississippi State University in Starkville.  I will be working under Dr. David Hoffman, the project director and Anthropology professor at MSU, on a project investigating human migration to the peripheries of protected areas in Costa Rica.  Including the prospect of living in the South, I couldn’t be more excited. 

After graduating from Puget Sound, I welcomed an eagerly anticipated respite from academia.  That quickly changed after a couple of years bumming around the Pacific Northwest (Portland in particular) and taking jobs overseas leading high school students to Morocco and Spain.  I decided to buckle down, and I began poking around in different Anthropology Master Programs across the country.  Nothing immediately lit my fire until I was urged, through the guidance of Professor Andrew Gardner, to apply for this particular position.  A number of things about this opportunity spoke to me. Most significant was the chance to work alongside Dr. Hoffman in Costa Rica. I was also drawn to the rapidly evolving and expanding cultural anthropology program at MSU. 

The project’s goal is to determine the motivations behind migration to the outskirts of three protected areas (PAs) in Costa Rica with the intention of testing models for understanding population growth outside of PAs globally (a trend that is gaining momentum since the establishment of PAs and subsequent relocation of human communities to the peripheries of these areas).  The study will look at this trend through a political ecology and environmental anthropology lens. Ethnographically, we’ll rely heavily on semi-structured interviews and cultural consensus modeling to determine patterns.  Fieldwork begins next summer and continues intermittently throughout the next two years. The long term impacts are real and tangible, and the experience I will gain from this project will hopefully guide me to a career in applied anthropology.

The other exciting aspect is that I’ll be joining a department that that is experiencing a lot of growth, particularly in the realm of cultural anthropology.  Many of the professors and graduate students are bio-anthropologists and archeologists, which is a big departure from what we are used to in the CSOC department at Puget Sound.  Dr. Hoffman was brought in to the department largely to develop the cultural anthropology program and I am eager to share my undergraduate knowledge as well as my casual interest in bio-anthropology with the transforming department.

My sister once told me that I am the master of my own ship. However, if it weren’t for the relationships I made through my time in the CSOC department at Puget Sound, I doubt that I would have steered myself along this path.  Oddly enough, I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and I crossed the vast Mississippi every day. Little did I know at that time, but my future lay down that river. For the next two years I will be perfecting Southern cooking and hospitality so please feel free to stop by Starkville for a visit!

Congrats, Jessy, and good luck with your fall semester. Send us an update from Costa Rica once your fieldwork starts.



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