K-State graduation year: May 2008
Degree: BA in Anthropology and BS in Psychology
Current employer: Rescue Social Change Group
Position: Digital and Social Media Strategist
How many times, if any, did you change your major during college?
I changed my major twice during my college career. I started as a Biology/Life Sciences major at community college where I knocked out my general education requirements prior to enrolling at K-State. My interests evolved and I went undeclared for a semester before finally choosing Anthropology. I tacked on Psychology shortly after that.
The process was a natural progression of allowing myself to follow things that were interesting to me. I didn’t even know what anthropology was when my expository writing professor suggested it to me back in 2004, but it resonated with me enough for me to pursue it. My first anthropology class was, if I’m not mistaken, also Dr. Wesch’s first Intro to Cultural Anthropology class and that pretty much solidified my passion for humans and culture. After that I never looked back. To this day, this class was the best classroom experience I’ve ever had.
- Alliance for Religious Exploration, Tolerance, and Education
- Anthropology Club
- Psychology Club
During my senior year I interviewed with Barkley, an ad agency in Kansas City that was interested in the work our digital ethnography group was doing. This whole process took 3 or 4 weeks and was a positive experience. I ultimately declined the offer in favor of another offer from Sun Microsystems where I worked as an instructional designer for a couple years, but I’ve maintained a relationship with the department director of Barkley, an impressive guy who has since left the company to start an NPO in Haiti. We’ve talked about the possibility of working together on his NPO work, so I can’t overstate the importance of keeping connections with people you meet who you respect and who are doing interesting work.
Being a strategist I’m always working on multiple projects at once and no day is ever the same. An example of a typical day could have me editing for Campaign A, managing and optimizing Campaign B, analyzing data and reporting for Campaign C, jumping into a meeting to provide support, ideas, or feedback for a project I’m not directly involved with, then hopping on a call with a vendor or client. All the while there are minor issues cropping up that need to be handled relatively quick.
I enjoy the diversity of it and the fact that it’s actually relevant to my college education. We are a behavior change marketing company that creates public health campaigns targeting teens and young adults. Our approach is unique in that we focus our efforts at reaching at-risk youth through their interests, identities, and subcultures. I use my anthropology and psychology training almost every day.
Time management is huge; being efficient while also creating high quality work is so important. Avoiding burnout is another. I’ve learned vacations and time away are absolutely necessary. Sometimes you get caught up in the day-to-day, churning and burning through your tasks and to-dos, that at the end of it all there’s nothing left. Too much of that will destroy you. Time for yourself is necessary for your sanity and self-preservation.
Our company occupies a unique place between the public health and advertising world. We have a foot in both but aren’t firmly planted in either, so it’s hard for me to give advice on entering either of them. From my own experience, it had everything to do with following my passion with extra attention to the aspects of that passion that were marketable. Our company pays attention to prior work experience, but we also look for authenticity and dedication to passions and interests. If I had to give any kind of advice it would be to stick close to your passions and do as much interesting work as possible. That way it will take little effort when you’re forced to talk about yourself during an interview. And in my experience this authenticity and grit of character usually wins over talking through look-at-me filler on a resume.
- My education
- Having many different jobs and working situations, from working with different companies to working for myself as a freelancer
- Accepting and internalizing the skills and lessons from each and synthesizing them into something positive
- Living in places with active job markets, creative people, and a stimulating environment
- My personal interest in the weird, novel, and experimental
Yes and no. I’ve experienced many different working situations but all have been within the digital/creative universe. There were many moments that were unexpected, but I just accepted them as part of the journey and kept moving forward.
Moving to San Diego was a positive decision. There are certainly better job markets, but the quality of life, for me at least, is excellent. Most of my professional life has been spent here. I also lived in DC for a while which is another amazing environment for young professionals.
My current role. So far it fits the best with my education and experience and is frequently rewarding. It also affords me the opportunity to explore life and hobbies outside of work, which is important.
I just remember everything being so new and exciting. It was definitely a transitional period. There’s a sense of autonomy that comes when you get that first salaried paycheck.
There wasn’t a singular force, but Introduction to Cultural Anthropology with Dr. Wesch had a profound effect on me. I also must emphasize the importance the anthropology program and faculty as a whole played in my life. I had a personal relationship with each of the faculty and they all showed genuine interest in my growth. It felt like a family.
Dr. Wesch mentored me in many ways, as did Dr. Prins. They showed genuine concern for my success, encouraged exploration, and had very high standards. I’m genuinely grateful every day for their impact on my life.
I probably had the most interaction with Dr. Wesch and his classes were arguably the most applicable to current trends (e.g. Digital Ethnography). He also guided me as I applied for graduate schools following graduation. I ultimately decided to forgo graduate education since my career was developing quicker than anticipated, but his advice on that front was invaluable.
I was the marketing director for a financial technology company a couple years ago, despite having very little knowledge of the financial markets. Learning what I did in that role actually gave me a more nuanced view of the world. Given the influence wielded by businesses, I think learning how they function and interact with each other in local, national, and global contexts is beneficial and applicable across many professions.
Also, more student loan education is needed. Student loan debt can determine the type of job you can feasibly hold. That low-paying but soul-fulfilling (and world-improving) NGO job might not be entirely feasible if your loan payment eats up a large portion of your paycheck. But then again, I also firmly believe that if your passion is deep enough you’ll find a way to make it work. I’m just saying that student loans can sometimes place a disappointing burden on you that could be avoided with better financial education during undergrad.