Anthropology BA, Cultural Anthropology concentration
Geography BS, 2021
Among students whose CSU experiences were interrupted by COVID, Zoe Schutte also found a calling amid the pandemic. A dual major in both Anthropology and Geography, Schutte developed an interest in public health planning and urban development rooted around her experiences with the 2019 CSU Ethnographic Field School for Risk & Disaster and geography classes and projects focused on global and public health during COVID. After graduating from CSU, she pursued a Master’s of Public Health from Boston University and completed her graduate degree in 2023, with concentrations in Environmental Health and Chronic and Noncommunicable Disease. While in grad school, Zoe worked for the Town of Brookline’s Department of Health and Human Services as a part-time Public Health Specialist and integrated her master’s practicum into her work to evaluate the role of local governments in limiting residents exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances. Zoe is now the Project Assistant for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in their department of Development Review within the division of Economic Development — where she continues to use theory and practice from her CSU education.
What is your current position?
I recently [Summer 2023] began a new position as a Project Assistant for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in their department of Development Review within the division of Economic Development. In this role, I am responsible for assisting in facilitating the evaluation of design, density, use, and physical and social impacts for all development projects in the City of Boston. This includes proposals for residential, commercial office, hotel, retail, and research & development uses. My position works closely with Planners and Urban Design staff, relevant city agencies, and community members to ensure that the impacts of each project are identified and mitigated and that the design of the project is one that relates to and enhances the surrounding area.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Being a part of the City of Boston’s enhanced efforts to provide and maintain affordable and equitable housing and to create sustainable, climate-friendly urban development.
How did your experiences as a CSU Anthropology student lead to your career path?
My Anthropology and Geography degrees exposed me to my interest in the relationship between peoples’ environments, lived experiences, and social determinants and their health outcomes. Geography of Global Health (GR 305), Climate Migrants (GR 213), Public Anthropology and Global Challenges (ANTH 405), Gender, Culture, and Health (ANTH 416), and Urban Geography (GR 330) were all courses at CSU that opened my eyes to the complex role that social and environmental factors play in the health and benefit, or lack thereof, of communities. My passion for this aspect of Anthropology and Geography led me to the MPH program at Boston University since I was eager to pursue a more hands-on and direct involvement in quantifying these relationships and contributing to the implementation of targeted and impactful public health interventions. The culmination of these skills and knowledge are especially helpful in my current job when thinking about the community impacts of development projects and the historical and social contexts specific to different Boston neighborhoods.
At CSU, courses and professors fearlessly delved into critical yet often contentious subjects. This has significantly molded my perspective on my professional interests and the work I engage in. I think it has also given me an advantage in approaching the challenges I encounter within my current role.
What knowledge and skills from your degree have been most useful since leaving CSU?
I feel fortunate to have gained such a comprehensive social science perspective as I entered grad school and my career. Upon reflection, I realize that my experience at CSU was unique, with courses and professors that fearlessly delved into critical yet often contentious subjects. This has significantly molded my perspective on my professional interests and the work I engage in. I think it has also given me an advantage in approaching the challenges I encounter within my current role, such as issues related to housing accessibility, fair development, gentrification, and environmentally conscious urban planning. My background from CSU definitely better equipped me to consider and understand the broader community impacts of urban development, allowing me to offer a more holistic approach to these matters.
What are you most proud of since graduating from CSU?
From a professional standpoint, I take pride in successfully orchestrating the PFAS education campaign during my time at the Brookline Department of Public Health. The opportunity to conceptualize, spearhead, and oversee a project of this nature, capable of effecting tangible change, was very rewarding and such a great learning experience.
On a personal level, I am also very proud and excited to continue to be living and working in a large urban area post-CSU and BU graduation. It was a huge leap for me coming from small-town Colorado and I am loving the change of pace.
Is there a specific class or experience from CSU that has stuck with you?
In addition to those I already mentioned, the 2019 Ethnographic Field School for Risk & Disaster with Dr. Kate Browne really ignited my interest in my current path. While we focused primarily on disaster impacts and barriers to disaster recovery in the context of Hurricane Harvey, it was impossible to separate the human health and well-being aspect, as they are inherently intertwined in what makes communities more or less vulnerable to disaster impacts.
Additionally, through Dr. Heidi Hausermann’s Gender, Culture, and Health and Geography of Global Health classes, I was able to grow my passion and interest in this area and learned a lot of valuable skills and base knowledge that heavily informed my MPH concentrations and that I continue to leverage into my current path every day.
What do you do outside of work?
I enjoy trying new restaurants with my friends and exploring/continuing to get to know New England and all that this region has to offer! Big fan of all the oysters, apple cider doughnuts, and beautiful fall foliage!