Undergraduate Careers

Yale College students who major in Anthropology go on to an exceptionally wide variety of careers after graduation. The most common career trajectories over the past five years have been in the education/academic, community organization/social services, and healthcare sectors. Environment, arts, law, business, consulting, and government are also represented.

In the Fall of 2021, we asked recent graduates “What are you doing now and how did your Yale Anthropology degree prepare you for it?” Some of their answers are below. 


Sana Aslam, Class of 2020

“These days, I’m working on my Master of Divinity at Harvard, where I’m studying theology, literature, and pastoral care. I’m super grateful for the ways that my studies in Anthropology at Yale empowered me with rigorous training in the arts of paying attention, noticing connections, and being brave in asking questions. These skills (dispositions, really) have proved invaluable across various professional and personal endeavors, from teaching and counseling work during my undergrad years, to researching for an environmental non-profit and an educational startup during a gap-year, to writing poetry for pleasure and of course to preparing me for graduate school. Anthropology is one of the best majors to inspire and challenge the mind for deep, collaborative thinking. And this is a thinking I believe the world will require much more of if we are to address issues that have often been approached in silos. My studies across a range of subjects in the major and the conversations I shared with my classmates and professors nurtured a curiosity for learning thoughtfully from everything and everyone. It’s a wonderful choice for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the lifelong pursuit and love of knowledge and people-kind.” — Sana Aslam


Krzyś Chwała, Class of 2020

“I consistently turn to my background in anthropology throughout my work managing a nonprofit organization focused on innovation in addiction services. Day-to-day, the anthropology major prepared me to attend to addiction’s multivalence—as a “disease” to be treated, an object of research, an area of innovation—and to bring together and reconcile different understandings thereof. I’m better able to draw lines between my conversations with therapists, tech workers and CEOs, and researchers as a result. In a grander sense, the major taught me to critically take up my positionality, to evaluate how my work fits into larger systems (of culture, medicine, capitalism, and technological innovation), and to bring intentionality and care to everything I do. The major continues to inspire me to be both critical and creative, imagining and (attempting) to create better worlds.” — Krzyś Chwała


Wa Liu, Class of 2017

“To answer your question, my study of Anthropology has greatly influenced my practice in the visual arts. As an artist working in installation, moving image and painting, I derive many inspirations from the topics and methodology of anthropology. I’m now pursuing an M.S. in Art, Culture and Technology at MIT, where I’ve also broadened my understanding of the intersection of art and anthropology. I deploy neuro-technology to construct immersive and interactive environments, exploring the subjectivity and plasticity of human emotions and perceptions. Built upon post-humanism, my multidisciplinary practices reimagine human agency at a time when feelings and desires could be quantified, predicted and affected by neuroscience. My works adopt fluid and decentralized perspectives to interrogate the power dynamics between humanity and technology.” — Wa Liu

 


 

Holly Robinson, Class of 2017

“After completing my anthropology degree at Yale, I earned a Masters of Public Health from the Yale School of Public Health, concentrating in Social and Behavioral Sciences and Global Health. I’m now a Consultant with The Chartis Group, a firm dedicated to health care and focused on the health care provider space. My anthropology studies helped me refine my belief that people matter, and that to tackle any business or healthcare problem, you must start and end with people in mind. I now analyze health care systems in some of the same ways you would study a culture, beginning with a curiosity to learn how and why they do things, rather than coming in with the answer to their problems. More tactically, I learned qualitative research skills (e.g., interviewing, participant observation) that help me quickly get up to speed on my clients’ most pressing challenges. “ — Holly (Robinson) Veroneau

 


 

Olga Karnas, Class of 2016

“Since graduating, I have worked in four countries, applying both qualitative and quantitative research methods to organizations in my job as a consultant. The independence of thought coupled with rigorous reasoning required to conduct ethnographic studies directly translate into my daily work, where I interview executives and conduct comprehensive research at client companies. Yale’s Anthropology Department trained me to identify structures of power, recognize pressures of modernity, and question social mores. Ultimately, humans shape corporate cultures, and corporate cultures drive balance sheets. When I work with people from different backgrounds or in various cultural contexts, the anthropological perspective enables me to challenge “the way things are done here” and better relate to others. Anthropologists need to constantly practice their intellectual curiosity, and I have carried that tendency over into my work with global businesses. As a bonus, I have once referenced Thor Heyerdahl to the delight of my Norwegian clients.” — Olga Karnas

 


 

D Dangaran, Class of 2015

“I am currently a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in my home state of Hawai’i. Studying Anthropology gave me an important foundation for my outlook on the work I was able to do in Singapore at Yale-NUS College and in the queer community, in South Africa as a legal intern at Lawyers for Human Rights, and in the United States as working in both national and grassroots LGBT rights legal organizations. I plan to be a prison litigation attorney, representing trans people on the inside. Carceral culture, especially as it impacts marginalized identity groups such as LGBT people, is extremely difficult to understand from the outside of institutions. I have learned more about this work from formerly incarcerated people who have shared their lived experiences directly with me or in writing and interviews that nonprofits have collected. I will always be an advocate for the importance of centering lived experiences in legal research and writing and legal advocacy alike. Now that I’m back home in Hawaii for the first time since heading to Yale in 2011, I have been getting involved with local advocacy, have been dancing hula with a māhū instructor, and have been reconnecting with the land through service opportunities. I feel, more than ever, like I am living as an informal anthropologist, ethnographic notebook in tow wherever I go. “ — D Dangaran

 


 

Elisa Visher, Class of 2014

” I graduated Yale in 2014 with dual Biology (Intensive) and Anthropology degrees. I worked as a research technician right after college and am now finishing my PhD at University of California Berkeley in the Integrative Biology department where I study infectious disease evolution. I largely credit my path to graduate school to my undergraduate anthropology degree. Being able to take small, primary literature based seminars in the anthropology department very early in my scientific career is what really introduced me to the critical thinking and creativity sides of scientific research. For me, this is what made the idea of research interesting and the one on one contact with professors in the department allowed me to get the mentoring that I needed to pursue this path. My anthropology degree also taught me quite a bit about how to do human-adjacent biological research ethically and responsibly.” — Elisa Visher

 


 

Emma Spence, Class of 2018

“Currently, I’m taking the science prerequisites for medical school. I arrived here after a detour in experiential education, and I believe that my anthropology degree has prepared me well for all these steps along the way, and particularly medicine. Something I learned from anthropology is to use narratives and stories as an entrance into larger themes and bigger pictures. And to think critically about how cultural constructs shape our modes of interaction and ways of being in the world. As I gear myself up for a career in medicine, I know that this approach will be immensely helpful. It will guide my careful consideration of taking patient histories and seeing the interweaving of factors that contribute to their health, and it will also remind me to think critically about the larger systems of medicine and the complex cultures that they perpetuate (both bad and good).” — Emma Spence

 


 

Noora Reffat, Class of 2019

“Following my time with Yale Anthropology, I went on to get my MPH at the Yale School of Public Health and am a current medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. One of the best decisions I made in support of my career in infectious disease epidemiology and medicine was to study anthropology. It allows me to better assess and understand population-level health problems, and engage with community members to understand their needs from their perspectives. Anthropology taught me to be a more critical learner and more empathetic educator, and I continue to use what I learned daily to think through solutions to health inequities and disparities.” — Noora Reffat

 


 

Kristin Horneffer, Class of 2014

“I am currently a teacher, and since graduating university, have taught in a variety of cultural settings. Understanding a range of cultures has enabled me to teach in such a way that gives my students a more global awareness of their capabilities. I have also encouraged my fellow teachers to understand that we can teach students in a way that doesn’t necessarily conform to their larger culture. For example, instead of accepting the economic “facts” of scarcity and resulting conflations of self-interest with greed, anthropology helps to uncover the root of that belief as well as provide us with examples of other cultures for whom gift-giving and sharing creates unity and perceptions of abundance. I share this information with my students by developing classroom cultures centered around cooperation, where helping the group means helping oneself and vice versa. Because I’ve sought to understand the mechanisms that underlie the cultures of my students, I can see how to steer them from their current perspectives to ones that, as the teacher, I believe are more fruitful to their development as a whole. A lot of my work while teaching deals with the environment and natural world. Consequently, I engage a lot with this topic of “climate change.” Because creating a healthier world necessitates that humans change their behaviors on a deep cultural level, my education in anthropology has been essential while working with others to bring about behavior change. For example, I understand that while talking to rural Maryland or Virginia farmers, approaching them with alarming global statistics about pending environmental catastrophe or even using the words “climate change” is perhaps not the best method to start a conversation about how we can be aware of and positively impact the health of the world. Many of these farmers come from cultures that have grown distrustful of large governmental systems of authority and triggering them with the known rhetoric of state politics might turn them off. Instead, channeling my anthropology education, I approach discussion from the perspective of their cultural world. I might ask them about what they notice about the environment while farming and might end up discussing the unpredictability of the weather, whether they’ve noticed a change in wildlife, etc. Approaching the subject in this manner enables a two-way flow of information, based on mutual trust, that makes real discussion, and thus real action, possible. Anthropology teaches you that connection with another person requires mutual context, and that is arrived at through an understanding of culture.” — Kristin Horneffer

 


 

Isaac S. Kirk-Davidoff, Class of 2018

“I graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology in 2018 and currently work in conservation. My main responsibilities are improving and maintaining hiking trails in New York City. It is an unusual career path, but my education in anthropology has helped me immensely. The Anthropology major has a great mix of theoretical and practical learning. More than anything, it’s about learning how to learn from and with others. I studied the point at which human and nature meet. Now, I collaborate everyday with humans and nonhumans to design and protect human/nature interaction.” — Isaac S. Kirk-Davidoff

 


 

Malak Nasr, Class of 2019

“I graduated from Yale in 2019 with a BA in anthropology. I began my first job at a non-for-profit organization in New Haven, Havenly, that offers job training to refugee and immigrant women. Working at Havenly required me to always think critically about the local community and its needs; a skill that was ingrained in me through my exposure to ethnography. I am currently making the transition to study and work in Public Health - a field that is both an art and a science. Undoubtedly, my background in anthropology has given me the most fitting intellectual toolkit to make this transition.” — Malak Nasr

 


 

Samantha Berek, Class of 2020

“After graduating from Yale in 2020 with a double major in anthropology and astrophysics, I’ve begun a PhD program in astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Although at surface level it would seem as though my astronomy degree is more relevant to my career path, I have found that my perspective on the purpose and execution of science has been heavily influenced by the way of understanding the world that I developed through my anthropology coursework. Studying anthropology, and especially reading ethnographies, has taught me that there is no such thing as an impartial observer, and that understanding the positionally of researchers and participants in any research is crucial. This is a perspective that I believe all scientists should have, and has made me a better researcher and a better person.” — Samantha Berek

 


 

Veena Muraleetharan, Class of 2020

“I’m currently working on health, education, and labor policy in the U.S. Senate. My anthropology degree prepared me with the research, writing, and listening skills needed to create more responsive and thoughtful policy. The critical lens on systems of power that anthropology offers has also been crucial to a more nuanced understanding of the landscape of stakeholders for any given research question. Finally, the community centric approach that anthropology research utilizes has led me to greatly value that perspective in my day to day work.” — Veena Muraleetharan

 


 

Zenab Keita, Class of 2014

“Anthropology, particularly, Sociocultural Anthropology, helped provide me with a better understanding of my lived experience as a multi-cultural child and through the practice of studying human behavior and cultures, helped me uncover the empathy and emotional intelligence I had for the lived experiences of others. It is with this nuanced understanding of humans, their behaviors and their cultures that I’ve been able to excel in my sports business career thus far. Every day, I manage the personalities and business interests of a variety of people from all types of backgrounds and my ability to understand the systems, institutions, practices, traditions, values and relationships that drive them gives me an advantage in business settings as I pitch ideas and opportunities. People want to do business with people they like and understand, and because sports business is mostly dominated by people that don’t look like me, it can sometimes be tough to find common ground. Anthropology taught me how to learn more about others in order to find those commonalities. Beyond the personal management of people in business, Anthropology has also helped me in sports business when looking at marketing tools. For example, my Linguistic Anthropology course with Joseph Errington has helped me communicate to my partners the importance of using vocabulary, slang and phrasing native to a particular team’s geographical area in any social media posts to resonate more with the fans in that region. Or my coursework with Erik Harms around cultural anthropology helps me communicate to partners how engrained a team identity can be within the personal identity of its supporters, which can help me build meaningful partnerships. Anthropology has also helped me work with our athletes better. I often reference the observations I made when writing my senior thesis on the intersectionality of black male bodies and the NCAA when interacting with them from a business side. In that thesis, I wrote about the physical, social and economic impacts institutions like the NCAA have on these athletes, and I have seen similar impacts with athletes in the NBA and NFL. Those observations still impact how I interact with them to this day, what I request them to do on behalf of the team or my partners, and how I encourage others to interact with them—and the athletes are greatly appreciative. They feel I understand them better, making it easier for me and them to do our respective jobs. Ultimately, Anthropology gave me skills and tools that essentially just make me a better human to others because it trained me to allow for and to attempt to comprehend the complexity of others. That is a skill that would be helpful in any career.” — Zenab Keita

 


 

Sophie A Swanson, Class of 2015

“I’m currently working in the experience design sector as a “narrative strategist.” My firm, Bluecadet, works with museums, cultural organizations, and some brands to produce a range of experiences–exhibits, interactive touch screens, websites, and some short films. As a narrative strategist, my job is to think about how best to tell our client’s stories in physical or digital space and how to frame and pace information to create the best learning and user experience for the visitor. Sociocultural Anthropology is all about storytelling, and I use the deep observation, writing, and research skills my degree instilled everyday. Anthropology opened my eyes to so many ways of perceiving and, perhaps most importantly, questioning. For that I’m forever grateful!” — Sophie A Swanson

 


 

Aastha KC, Class of 2020

“After graduation, I completed an internship with IRIS in their health department to work on building language inclusive material for COVID-19 prevention for refugees and immigrants in the New Haven area. This was under the Dwight Hall fellowship and the YANA fellowship, both funded by Yale. After that, I have been working on the COVID-19 Vaccine Trials for the NIH-Moderna and Novavax studies as a clinical research coordinator at Emory in Atlanta. Working on the COVID vaccine clinical trials and seeing its impact on the world is very rewarding, yet also makes me question how to increase vaccine equity, confront corporate greed, improve public policy, etc. Yale Anthropology prepared me well to work in public health/service research as I learned how to be critical of the scientific “truths,” question the role, and impact of public health projects. I’ve also been working on a global health grant with a Yale Med professor. Finally, the liberal arts education that I received at Yale with special emphasis on the Anthropology department really taught me to express and communicate my ideas more clearly, both in written and spoken form. It taught me to closely read texts and understand the nuances of history, philosophy, language, literature. sociology and the sciences and its effect on our world. My education at Yale was truly liberal, as a result, it made me aware of the rich lives of others and allowed me to learn for learning’s sake. Most importantly, the liberal arts exposed me to values and ideas that I could use to challenge my own perspectives and gave me the building blocks to charter a rich, and meaningful life.” — Aastha KC

 


 

Peter Chung, Class of 2018

“Right now, I’m working with the Sierra Club as a digital organizer to pass environmental legislation here in Illinois. Anthropology really gave me the analytical skills to navigate the political world – from door-knocking constituents to meeting with legislators. My current role can be very technical, but the thorniest problems are always the human ones. The anthropology program taught me that cultural values are all relative and I consistently felt challenged to question my assumptions. The program also teaches clear writing and listening skills.” — Peter Chung

 


 

Eva Guadamillas, Class of 2014

“I currently lead Coursera’s strategy & operations team in Europe and Asia. Studying anthropology at Yale was an invaluable experience. My anthropology classes helped me explore the different ways in which people’s worldviews and behaviours change depending on the type of society they live in. Being mindful about this has helped me successfully adapt to new companies and teams throughout my professional career.” — Eva Guadamillas

 


 

Miranda Rector, Class of 2020

“After my undergraduate time at Yale, I went on to work in and pursue a Masters of Public Health with a focus on Health Policy at YSPH. My anthropology degree was a critical step in my path towards this field! Anthropology gave me a critical framework to approach the challenges I see in the world. From gaining new perspectives in how to understand class inequality and political conflicts to learning qualitative methods to study health injustice, I benefited tremendously from the coursework and mentorship I received from the amazing faculty in this department.” — Miranda Rector

 


 

Alex Meeks, Class of 2014

“I am working at an urban planning, economic development, and real estate development consultancy in New York. I draw on my undergraduate education in anthropology most days. For example, we often help cities conduct community engagement: in other words, we help local governments bring community residents together, in person (or remotely), to influence policy priorities, achieve consensus regarding a specific investment or decision, or refine a program in development. Designing these events involves many of the ethical and intellectual considerations of anthropological fieldwork: cultivating trust and openness, identifying bias, interrogating power, accurately recording observations and transparently sharing them, and combining observations with quantitative data and other information in order to confirm details and tell a full story. In our projects at work, we must commit spoken and unspoken actions to make an engagement feel safe and genuine and worthwhile for residents; remove barriers to access so as to make engagement as inclusive as possible; exchange with participants some form of compensation for their time and expertise (it does not have to be monetary); and broker between radically different styles of formal or informal (or, sometimes, powerful and less powerful) ways of speaking and communicating. We have to conduct all of this work among diverse groups who are not at all equal in status, political power, wealth, or other dimensions. And of course, reporting back and abstracting defensible, community-driven decisions from often messy engagement requires the self-reflexivity that we observe in ethnographic practice. I could not run out of ways that I draw regularly on the skills and ways of thinking that I picked up while completing the anthropology major at Yale.” — Alex Meeks