Our graduates are going on to do great things around the world! We were happy to catch up with Heather Baily (a 2011 alumna), to hear about what she’s been doing, what she loved about studying at Colorado State University, and what advice she has for current students.
What did you do after graduating from anthropology at Colorado State University?
After graduating from Colorado State University with my degree in anthropology, I joined the Peace Corps. I left for Ghana, West Africa in February 2012 where I spent 26 months as a health volunteer. I returned in April of this year.
What was your most memorable experience with the anthropology department?
My fondest memories with the anthropology department are of some of the classes, believe it or not. Something I really loved about the department was the small class sizes, especially the upper division classes. As part of the honor’s program, I had to take two graduate level courses. I was very nervous for my first one (Contemporary Issues in Biological Anthropology) but I really loved the round-table dialogue atmosphere Dr. Magennis established in her classroom. Dr. Browne created a similar atmosphere in her classes. I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know my fellow classmates, and to discuss and challenge each other to think critically about this issues presented in each class. It’s something I don’t think you can get with most majors offered at CSU.
Did you apply what you learned with anthropology while doing the Peace Corps? If so, what?
I absolutely applied what I learned from anthropology during my Peace Corps experience. In the very beginning, I think my anthropology background helped me adapt more easily than some of my fellow PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) because I understood the importance of learning (and being respectful of) the local culture and tradition. Some of the people I arrived with would often become frustrated at cultural differences and wonder why Ghanaians couldn’t be more like Americans, assuming that our way of doing things was better. I guess I went into Peace Corps more open-minded, especially when it came to things such as local religion and traditions. My anthropology classes also helped me to understand the underlying causes of major health issues, such as resistance of bed nets to prevent malaria or reliance on spiritual healers to cure ailments. I would ask my counterpart, family, nurses, and friends many, many questions about their beliefs and ideas so I could better understand each issue from a Ghanaian perspective. I think this helped me not become frustrated or disappointed like other PCVs when people resisted doing things the “American” way.
What are your plans now?
While I was still in Ghana, I was accepted to Case Western Reserve University to pursue a joint degree in Public Health and Medical Anthropology. I plan to focus my thesis research on Ghana, specifically on how development practices and foreign aid impact local Ghanaians’ access to healthcare, and how these things influence a continued reliance on juju medicine. My ultimate goal is to find a way to better bridge the gap between Western medicine and local medicine, and to provide better medical care for all.
Do you have any advice for undergraduate students who are working on getting their degrees right now?
I have two pieces of advice or current students. Firstly, take advantage of office hours and get to know your professors. I truly felt like every professor really cared about their students, and wanted them to succeed. They also happen to be wonderful people, worth getting to know outside of the academic setting. Secondly, challenge yourself. Get involved; take an extra class (perhaps a graduate course), read an author that intrigues you beyond what’s on the syllabus. You’ve picked an awesome field of study, make the most of your undergraduate experience. You won’t regret it.
Would you like to know more about what our alumni are doing? Check out our Youtube Playlist to get advice on your degree, and your career after graduating.