Posted by: soanstolaf | February 27, 2015

So/An Student Joins Summer Archaeological Dig in Turkey

For the past two summers a small group of St. Olaf students have enjoyed the opportunity to spend a few weeks in the Turkish countryside, excavating at Antiochia ad Cragum archaeological site outside the small town of Gazipasa in southern Turkey. This summer, they will be joined by sophomore So/An major Ellen Meyers.


Meyers entered St. Olaf certain she would be a Sociology/Anthropology major due to her ultimate goal of studying forensic anthropology, and her general interest in the disciplines. She says that all her classes have fascinated her and confirmed that she made the right choice in major. When she first heard about the excavations in Turkey during an ancient history class taught by the program’s faculty advisor, Professor Tim Howe, she was immediately interested in the possibility of participating in a similar experience. “I’ve always been kind of interested in that general area of the world,” she explains. St. Olaf has joined forces with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln over the past two years to excavate the 1st century Roman market town, with St. Olaf’s project focused on excavating the site’s acropolis. Meyers applied to participate in the program, which consists of approximately twenty students, from St. Olaf and Carleton. “You don’t need any previous experience, which was very attractive to me, because I have no previous experience” she jokes.

Meyers doesn’t have any illusions that it won’t be a challenge, particularly because it will be her first time traveling abroad. From a small town in Minnesota, she is excited to experience another country and place, and get the chance to learn about the history of another area. “I come from a small farm community, about 2000 people, and it’s almost all German” she explains, and she has always enjoyed the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds.  She’s been trying to learn about the area, “right now I’ve been doing a lot of google searches” she says, learning about current events, but also the history and culture of the area. “We’re actually going to be there over Ramadan, so that’s going to be interesting.” As a So/An major she relishes the opportunity to spend time in a new place, broadening her worldview and learning how other people see the world.

While she says she thinks it would be exciting to make a find, she finds the course appealing because she will learn proper methods of archaeological fieldwork, something she is not only interested in, but knows will be useful for her planned career path. “Everybody thinks of archaeology like ‘oh you’re  going to dig up bones and artifacts and stuff’ and we’re going to do some of that but we’re also going to learn about different types of soils and excavation techniques and what they think used to be there” she explains. Meyers and the other students have already had a meeting with the leaders of the program, where they learned about previous finds at the site (such as early Christian crosses, coins, and statues) as well as the research goals for this year’s excavations.

We look forward to hearing about Ellen’s experiences when she gets back next year!

Thanks to fellow Ole student Lizzy Bews for information on the program.

Posted by: soanstolaf | February 23, 2015

Lindsay O’Keefe Senior Profile

Lindsay O'Keefe, class of 2015

Lindsay O’Keefe, class of 2015

Second semester of her freshman year, Lindsay O’Keefe found herself torn between taking a sociology/anthropology class and a psychology class. Her mother (who, ironically, works in an area of psychology), suggested she take sociology, suspecting her daughter would find it a better fit. And her mother’s intuition paid off. Already a history major, O’Keefe found herself enamored with another field. “I remember calling my mom and being like, “Mom, I think I also want to major in sociology!””

Now she’s finishing up senior year with both History and Sociology/Anthropology majors, as well as a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies. There is a common denominator in her fields. “The reason I fell in love with both of them [History and SoAn] was because they’re both analyzing society.”

O’Keefe’s ultimate goal is a PhD, and she continues on that path next year by attending graduate school in the Netherlands at a master’s program with Utrecht University for Gender Studies. “I decided I wanted to be abroad next year if possible.” She hopes it will be a “good way to make sure that I want to do this type of stuff for the rest of my life.” From there, she will decide whether to do a PhD in Sociology or History, with an emphasis on gender.

Her Women’s and Gender studies concentration interacts with her So/An training to shape the way she views the world, something she readily acknowledges. She says she notices gendered language and norms more often than many people, “it’s just so normal to most So/An majors that you don’t even think about it.”

She wasn’t always so interested in gender. “I was one of those people who would probably say that I agreed with feminism but wouldn’t identify myself as a feminist”, something she laughs about now, as she readily identifies as a feminist.  Through her classes she gained a better understanding of feminism and feminist theory, and found a way to make sense of her life experiences. “I think it was just one of those things that happened in college. It just became more relevant as I got older.” She adds that it wasn’t one class, but rather the inclusion of gender in a number of classes, in a variety of departments, that helped her learn and changed her ideas. Her interest “just sort of organically happened” over time. Her study abroad experiences, particularly in Morocco where catcalling is more open and common, also helped show her how relevant gender issues are.

Besides Morocco, O’Keefe has studies abroad in two other countries, bringing her total of Interims abroad to three.  She fondly remembers her trip last year to Jordan with Professor Ibtesam Al Atiyat. “Going abroad with one of the So/An professors was really cool and exciting.” It was a different study abroad experience, she says, because they were “looking and analyzing a society from the perspective of sociology/anthropology.”

Looking to the future, she’s extremely confident that her choice of the So/An major will help her, wherever she ends up.  “What can you do with a Soc major? You can do really anything!” She chose the major “because I loved it” she explains, and that’s the most important thing. “Do something because you love it. Just go for it.”

If you have questions for O’Keefe about her experiences, you can reach her at

Posted by: soanstolaf | February 23, 2015

Creating a Class to Explore a Passion

Senior Katie Reed knew she was interested in taking a class on public health and Native American communities. The one problem was that there wasn’t a class offered on that topic. So, being a resourceful Ole and Sociology/Anthropology major, she created one, doing an independent study with Professor Tom Williamson last semester.

The class, which Reed designed with help from Professor Williamson and some sources from retired So/An professor Carolyn Anderson, focused on the issue of providing culturally competent care to Native American communities, due to their unique position in U.S. Society and their unique health concerns. They utilized books, journal articles, videos, and lots of online research.  Reed tried to look at what tribes are doing to combat health issues in Native American communities, “especially in MN, because I really focused in on what’s going on here in our community.” Reed also got the opportunity to connect with people in the Native American community and academics doing research in the area. At first, she says she was nervous about talking to people, “but it was really good for my confidence and I learned a lot from different people.”

Initially Reed planned to do a presentation as her final project. She realized, however, that he research was better suited to a website. So she created a site, which includes a literature review of books she read, information on what tribes are doing in MN, history of Indian Health Service, and resources for people interested in public health masters programs with a focus on Native American issues. The research on graduate programs “was beneficial for myself, just to do that research now, so I know as I apply to schools.” She hopes to continue to build the website as she continues on her public health path, even though she has finished her independent study.

Reed encourages other students to consider doing independent studies. “If you’re passionate about something that isn’t offered here, you should definitely go for it if you have room in your schedule.” While she acknowledges that it wasn’t easy, she enjoyed the work because it interested her, and she laughs, “it was already stuff I would be looking up in my free time.” She also enjoyed the chance to work one-on-one with a professor and benefit from their insight. Reed continues to work toward her goal of working in public health as she finishes her last semester here at St. Olaf.

The website is If you’re interested in Katie Reed’s project, you can contact her at

Posted by: soanstolaf | February 20, 2015

Katie Reed Senior Profile

Senior Katie Reed arrived at St. Olaf already interested in Sociology and Anthropology. After one class, she added the major, soon pairing it with a Psychology major and a Race and Ethnic Studies concentration. Her majors are not a common pairing she explains, but says she doesn’t know why exactly, because she finds them complimentary. “Psychology is really looking at the individual and with sociology and anthropology it’s really looking at society and the collective. So I think they really influence each other in different ways.”

Her ultimate goal is to get a Masters in Public Health in the next five years, hopefully eventually working in community health organization. She’s well on her way, having interned at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois in their Public Affairs and Community Investments Department for two summers. “That was really quite a good experience getting to know what the corporate world was like.” Reed says that So/An helped her understand the bureaucracy and hierarchy of a large corporation like that and helped her connect with the populations she was working with. Her job involved talking with various communities about the Affordable Care Act and their health care options.

Reed also designed an independent study about public health in Native American communities, an area that she hopes to continue working in as she pursues a position in the public health field.

Reed says that being a sociology/anthropology major has “opened my worldview. I definitely see the world in a global perspective and am more aware of my position as a global citizen.” On her recent interim trip to South Africa, she was able to use some of the skills learned in So/An classes. While the South Africa trip (where she was accompanied by fellow So/An student Lindsay O’Keefe) was a Social Work class, she say it was “really interdisciplinary” and involved “talking about how South African society is constructed, especially in the post-apartheid era.” Reed enjoys talking about her major, explaining that she has learned from all her classes, and found that they all connect and interact. She sums her feelings up with a smile, and a simple “I love my major so much.”

Katie Reed at Cape Agulhas - the southernmost tip of South Africa.

Katie Reed at Cape Agulhas – the southernmost tip of South Africa.

Posted by: soanstolaf | February 16, 2015

Three Interims Abroad

St. Olaf’s interim policy is that you need to do at least three years of interim classes, and you can’t go abroad your freshman year.  Of her four interims, senior Lindsay O’Keefe has taken advantage of the opportunity to go abroad for the past three years. While she knows going abroad as much as she has is unusual, she feels it was the right choice for her. “I wanted to be abroad. I would have gone abroad freshman year if I could.” Interims allowed her to finish two majors and a concentration, and kept her from being homesick too much.

O’Keefe’s first interim was finishing her French language requirement in Morocco. “That was definitely my most difficult interim. I really loved the country; it was a really cool place to go. It continued to foster my love of the continent of Africa… But French for me was really hard. Language for me has always been not easy.” Still, she found herself learning a lot, and communicating with locals. Highlights included doing a home stay and staying in the Medina of Fes.

O'Keefe in Morocco

O’Keefe in Morocco, January 2013

Junior year she went on the Religion and Politics in Jordan course, with Sociology/Anthropology professor Ibetesam Al-Atiyat. “We got a lot of different perspectives on what was going on in Jordan.” Meeting a number of people from different groups with widely varying worldviews helped her understand Jordan and to some extent the wider region of the Middle East. They also spent a few days in Israel, visiting different religious sites. “It was a really well-rounded program of seeing lots of different religious sites and talking with lots of religiously-minded people” O’Keefe says.

O'Keefe in Jordan, January 2014

O’Keefe in Jordan, January 2014

Read More…

Posted by: soanstolaf | February 16, 2015

Bridget Novak Senior Profile


Novak with a sheep she met while hiking.

“I just think it’s a really amazing thing, a really amazing program.” Senior Bridget Novak explains about her passion for the Sociology/Anthropology major. After her first So/An class, four years ago, Novak was pretty sure that she had found what she wanted to study. “I knew very little about what it would really be like, but thought I would like it still, because I think people are interesting.” After her second class in her second semester at St. Olaf, “I was totally sold.”

This spring, Novak will graduate a SoAn and Studio Art major. “It’s an interesting combination but to me they are really related because I think art is a lot about life and for me it’s a lot about people, so it kind of combines the two.”

When asked what attracted her to Sociology/Anthropology, she explains that “I think I was becoming more and more interested about what exactly has shaped me to be who I am and live the life that I do.” Sociology/Anthropology offered her the opportunity to explore ideas she had never considered before. “It was a totally new perspective and a totally new way of looking at life.”

A major SoAn experience for her was Fall of 2013, her junior year, when she went on the HECUA trip to Norway. There she not only explored society and culture, but her artistic side was fed too. “It was a really good mix of cultural things” she says, explaining that they watched a lot of movies, including some that critiqued the current government or systems. “It was interesting to see an artistic representation of a counter opinion.” While there, she also volunteered as an intern with immigrant children teaching them English. “Big language barrier but a lot of fun” she laughs. As with most HECUA programs, Novak completed a research project, hers focused on suicide in Norway. “I think sometimes study abroad programs are less academic and more experiential” but she feels her experience was a good mix of the two, which is what she was looking for in a program.

Novak emphasizes the importance of SoAn in shaping her life and worldview. “It’s such an important knowledge base to have.” It has challenged her perception of the world, and of other people, helping her to understand racism, class, and causing her to reconsider and challenge her preconceived notions of what humans are like. “It’s really interesting how culture shapes you, and how even if you’re being counter-cultural, it’s just another cultural movement.”

This summer she will return to a family camp as a fourth year camp counselor, a job she loves.  Eventually she hopes to work in art therapy, but is not considering graduate school yet. “I want to be a person and not a student for a little while first.” Wherever she goes, she has been permanently influenced by her experiences in the department. Sociology/anthropology, she says, is ultimately “applicable to anything and everything” and is a “way to understand why our world is the way it is.” She’s had her fair share of people questioning why she’s majored in it, “but in my mind it applies to everything, because really it’s about society, and life, and people.”

If you have questions for Bridget Novak, you can contact her at

Posted by: soanstolaf | February 11, 2015

Welcome Back! Links and News

Welcome back to second semester! Here are some interesting news articles you may have missed during interim and break.

Questions of gender identity and roles have been going on for a long time, as historians discover. How do we understand gender differently now?

As colleges expand in low-income neighborhoods, it’s often unfortunate for the residents. One university is looking for ways to expand without hurting the surrounding community.

China’s population concerns are sparking a change in policy in Shanghai, China’s largest city.

Marvel released a new super hero – Ms. Marvel, who is Muslim. Now activists are using her image to cover up anti-Islam ads on public transportation in San Francisco.

Take a look at how one anthropology class can change your life.

The campaign “Stop Telling Women To Smile” has gone International – in Mexico City. What does this say about gender relations in Mexico and the United States?

What interesting articles have caught your attention and made you think? Share them on our facebook page!

Technology is a given in this modern world. We use it constantly, whether it’s texting our friends, emailing our professors, or reading a blog about sociology/anthropology. Here are what some people have to say about technology and how it’s shaping our culture and society.

Anthropologist Mihrini Sirisena discusses the language of missed calls that she discovered during her fieldwork in Sri Lanka.

John McWhorter gives a fascinating TED talk on the evolution of language in texting, looking at how “texting is not writing at all” but rather “fingered speech.”

Who are we when we’re online? In what ways is it a performance in the way Goffman discussed social interactions as a performance? This debate is going on now, particularly due to the rise of online dating sites such as OK Cupid. Get a taste here:

Elad Ben Elul, an anthropologist at UCL talks about how Ghanaian families are using facebook to connect and create intimacy with family members around the world.

Technology like Google Maps, however, decides what we see on maps and in the world. Take a look at this critique of how Google Maps portrays Native American reservations. How do the people creating technology shape the way we get to see the world?

If you’re looking for a longer read, try It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd, which examines how teenagers interact online, and argues that adults may be overreacting.

College students today live in a technology driven world. As sociology/anthropology students, it’s useful to observe how these technologies shape our lives, our languages, and our worldview.

Posted by: soanstolaf | January 23, 2015

Tam Nguyen Senior Profile

“I was actually a Chemistry major” Tam Nguyen laughs “going Pre-Med like everyone else.” Her freshman year, however, she quickly discovered that Chemistry was not for her, and then took “Race and Class in America” a Sociology/Anthropology class, realized she loved it, and changed her path. “I never even thought about racism in America or anything like that, so it was completely new to me, but I really liked it.” She joined the So/An major and hasn’t looked back.  She paired it with Asian Studies after taking Chinese language classes and Asian Conversation. “It just fit so well because when I think about Asia I would have to think about society…so Sociology/Anthropology fits.”

She combined those two in her study abroad last year to South Korea, where she studied at Yonsei University, and found that her sociology/anthropology skills served her well. Culture shock is much easier when you’re prepared and know how to handle it, she explains.

Nguyen  at Bukhansan National Park.

Nguyen at Bukhansan National Park.

She has found that, beginning with her first So/An class, she has learned “to think outside the box” and think critically, a skill she values. As she moves forward after graduation, she hopes to get a job and eventually head toward a master’s program.  Wherever she goes, she knows she’ll be happy with her choice in major. “I feel like, at St. Olaf, we should take at least one So/An class, to learn how diverse it is.”

If you want to talk to Tam Nguyen about her experiences in the So/An department, you can reach her at

Posted by: soanstolaf | January 23, 2015

Sarah Kretschmann Senior Profile

Sarah Kretschmann found her way to the So/An major through a winding path. She entered St. Olaf intending to be an Art Education major, and then an Environmental Studies major.  But after living with a So/An major and talking with So/An majors, she decided to give it a try, joining the major fairly late. This May, she will graduate a Sociology/Anthropology major and an Environmental Studies concentration.

Both served her well in her trip to India last semester, and she found immense value in the research methods classes she took last year, as well as Anthropological and Sociological Theory classes. “The most special experience for me was just realizing how much I’d learned” she says.

Kretschmann on her study abroad in India Fall 2014.

Kretschmann on her study abroad in India Fall 2014.

She’s also used her So/An knowledge at various internships, including last summer at Lutheran Social Service (LSS) of Minnesota in their Advancement and Development department, where she worked on congregational relations. “It was something I didn’t know I was going to be as passionate about as I was, and I was well prepared for that also through some of the stuff I’d done in my social science research classes.”

She also recently worked with an organization doing work on Human Trafficking Policy in her home state of Wisconsin, an interest she has been involved in for years, as a founding member of SOLAS.

As for plans of the future, she hopes to keep working with LSS or similar organizations, in a variety of capacities. “Something in Social Services, which is very vague” she laughs.

She finds immense value in her So/An experiences. “I honestly think a So/An class should be required for students. Just because I do think it is such a great way to encourage cultural sensitivity and a broader perspective.” For those genuinely interested in the major, she encourages talking to professors. Her own entry into the major was aided by discussing her interest with a professor who encouraged her to join and take some classes. “You can get a lot of support and learn a lot from the folks in the So/An department.”

If you have questions for her about her experiences at St. Olaf and in the So/An department, you can email Kretschmann at

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