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Welcome to sNAPAshots, conversations with practicing, professional, and applied anthropologists. Let’s meet our next guest, Erica Hawvermale.
Erica Hawvermale 0:21
My emphasis now is cultural anthropology. My master’s in applied anthropology. And my primary work today centers around program evaluation specifically within the military family and veteran context.
How did you get interested in anthropology?
Erica Hawvermale 0:40
So my journey into anthropology was, I think, as most people’s winding, I came into undergrad as kind of the classic quintessential biology pre med, nothing interesting student. But I was very, very fortunate to be one of 30 undergraduates at my university to be awarded an undergraduate research fellowship, our first assignment was what they called researching your research. So we were supposed to look and see what professors in our departments were doing, and try and figure out who we wanted to work with. Except that everything that everybody who was doing the Biology Department looked horrifying. And just that it was, it looked boring, it didn’t seem engaging. It didn’t align with anything I was interested in. So I looked at chemistry, same thing, looked at movement science, same thing started looking at animal ecology, because that seemed medical, same thing, veterinary science, same thing. So I couldn’t find anything. And I was starting to get desperate. So honestly, I was just going through the departments on the website, and clicked on anthropology because it was a word I didn’t recognize, as I think so many people do. Right? They fall into anthropology because they were curious and they didn’t know what it was. But the professor’s there were doing really interesting things. And pretty much everybody’s projects looked like something I would be really interested in. So I found a professor that was doing work on interfaith tolerance and religious tolerance on campus, which really resonated with me, I was on a campus that was mostly had a very, very strong majority, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Because we were in Utah was about 86-87%, LDS. It was not. And so that negotiation of what does tolerance look like for a religious minority was really interesting and very personal to me. So fell in with that research, loved it took a class in anthropology, just to satisfy curiosity, my second semester, and then, you know, it was really all just downhill from there, I changed my major second year. And here we are.
How has the anthropological perspective or training enhanced your contribution to your workplace?
Erica Hawvermale 3:08
It’s really about the mindset, I think more than anything, it’s about thinking, who isn’t at the table, or honestly, who isn’t even being surveyed as part of research efforts, who isn’t being talked to whose voice isn’t being heard. And even within that, it’s really that underlying element of culture, especially within the groups that I work with, with it being military, military families, there’s a massive culture there, and it is absolutely counterculture to civilian culture. And so understanding what families prioritize their lived experiences and how that impacts how they even can engage with programs and services is crucially important to the work that I do. So ultimately, understanding culture of the people that you work with, as really the foundational part of anthropology is crucial to my work and that mindset of really thinking inclusively about both the questions, but also who you’re talking to.
What was one thing about anthropology that nobody told you as a student,
Erica Hawvermale 4:18
So clients, nobody really told me as a student, the types of negotiations you would have to do with clients. So my professors and my mentors deeply covered, navigating possibly conflicting Stakeholder Relations. I felt like I was very very prepared for that a stakeholders interests might conflict with beneficiary’s interests might conflict with government interests, might conflict with another organization’s interests might conflict with our ethics, and I was I very much felt prepared to deal with that. What I don’t think I was prepared to deal with, and what nobody really told me, was what happens when a client has already made up their mind. So coming into a project, they know what they’re going to hear, and just how much of a strain that could put on a client relationship, but also the the negotiation it takes when that is not what you find in the slightest. And having to negotiate how to present results that are not what a client wants to hear or not what a client was prepared to hear is not what a client wants to have to deal with, quite frankly, right, they don’t want to have to hear that they have to shift, especially when a program is very deeply held to them. And it’s not necessarily hitting the mark. And then I think just dovetailing with that nobody talks about what happens when a client decides to ignore or pivot. So you’ve put in all of this work, you put in all of these recommendations, and somebody decides to go, that’s cool, and never look at it again, or not taking into consideration as they’re refining their work, or decides to especially on like, market research and product development, decides to drop a product that you spent a lot of time researching, but also that you see fits a really large need. And the company just decides that it’s not a direction that they want to go anymore. But those two very specific niches within stakeholder relationships don’t get a lot of spotlight, but they happen a lot more than I was expecting.
What advice would you like to pass on to future anthropologists seeking roles in professional fields
Erica Hawvermale 6:55
For getting started, um, honestly, it a lot of a lot of times when we talk about getting into careers in anthropology, we talk about marketing yourself as an anthropologist and the values of anthropology and what anthropology brings to the table. And that is crucially important, and that should never ever be dropped. But when looking for a job and looking for a career, I think it’s almost more important to think about what you want to be doing versus what topic or area you want to be looking in, and then find an organization with that cross section. Because you can do anything from research to program implementation to curation to like the job titles are endless. Most anthropologists do not have anthropology in their job title I never have. I don’t think any of my co workmates do. Most of the anthropologists I know don’t have anthropologist in their job title. But they’re doing anthropological work. And I think that’s what gives us as anthropologists a really unique piece in this market is that we get to pair a very broad skill set, the mindset, the tools, the way of thinking about problems, the approach to problems with very deep interest in specific topic matter. And so really finding that intersection, especially on the job market, is I think the best place to start, because an anthropologist is going to be an organization’s unicorn, they just are we meet all of those buckets, you just have to find that organization. And so in getting started, I think that’s the big one, though, with that, it never hurts to get in somewhere where you can further develop skills. So if you want to further develop your research skills, find a research position, if you want to further hone your quantitative skills, find a data analyst position, it doesn’t have to be your absolute passion, but it will strengthen you for job two that is your absolute passion. Um, and then more later in the professional career after somebody has found that pathway that’s really, really precious to them, and navigating those types of client interactions. I think it really does focus on the story. Because the more we can weave a story that highlights both positive and negative, right, “this is going really well, but consider…” and trying to phrase that and honestly, you know, we talked about reverse psychology, reverse anthropology, you’re not just studying your participants or your beneficiaries. Also apply that ontological mindset to a client. What are they going to be able to hear? How can you frame that story in a way that they’re going to be receptive to think about their interests, think about their conflicting things they have to navigate, their stakeholder really decisions, and then tying all of that together, and then just honestly not taking anything personally. Because at the end of the day, you can do the most amazing work on the planet, but if a client decides to pivot that’s not on us as anthropologists, because there are so many other factors on the business side of things on the funder side of things that are at play there.
Thank you, Erica, for sharing your experience as a practicing cultural anthropologist. For more sNAPAshots Find us at practicing anthropology that org Meta, LinkedIn, and Twitter joined NAPA at the careers expo November 17. In Toronto, Canada see there!
Erica Hawvermale 10:47
[Outtakes] It really struck to me how people responded to me when I identified myself as a military child, and how every interaction would change. So families that I would talk to would start relatively closed, you know, they’d start well, we do X, Y, and Z. And if I was able to slip in, oh, yes, I understand. I was a military brat myself. The conversation would ship. Oh, then you understand and suddenly the information would flow.
PRODUCED BY Niel Tashima Cathleen Crain Joshua Liggett DIRECTED BY Reshama Damle Suanna Crowley MUSIC BY by Alex Productions “Ways” CREATIVE ASST. Juana Lozano Many Thanks to NAPA’s Governing Council for supporting sNAPAshots Conversations with Practicing, Professional, and Applied Anthropologists NAPA is a section of the American Anthropological Association Join us in person at the Careers Expo in Toronto, CA November 17 2023! NAPA is seeking volunteers to join the sNAPAshots project. We’d love to hear from YOU! Contact us at: ntashima@ ltgassociates.com
Nathaniel Tashima 11:20
[Outtakes] Do you have any closing thoughts?
Erica Hawvermale 11:22
[Outtakes] I can’t think of any.
Nathaniel Tashima 11:25
[Outtakes] Okay, thank you. That was great. I’m gonna turn off recording now.
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