Alumni Stories | Anthropology | SIU

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Alumni Stories

Nothing gives us greater pleasure than hearing from our alumni and finding out what exciting things they're doing in their chosen fields. If you haven't already, please update us and tell us about your post-graduation adventures!

Kate Grindstaff (BA 2019)

Katherine GrindstaffA year ago, I began my museum career as the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Seward House Museum in Auburn, New York. This amazing historic house holds an almost-entirely original collection (which is very rare) from the Seward family. William H. Seward was the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, and is most famed for his purchase of Alaska. Frances Miller Seward was a national changemaker in the abolitionist and women's rights movements, and used her home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. In my position, I am tasked to create programming for school students, give educational tours to the public, design and implement new exhibits, and have a really positive impact on the public. The Seward House Museum is closely tied with the Harriet Tubman Home, as the Sewards befriended and supported Tubman before and after the Civil War. Seneca Falls, a focal point in the early women's rights movement, is just a few miles away, and this entire area of New York is incredibly rich in American history. Our museum has been a National Historic Landmark for over 50 years and continues to have a massive impact on the surrounding community. After graduating from SIU, I imagined working in a small history museum with a powerful legacy would be my dream job. Now, as I continue my career at the Seward House Museum, I know I have met my initial goal and am excited to continue growing from my anthropological roots!

Kaitlin Fertaly, Ph.D. (she/her) (BA 2006, MS 2009)

Kaitlin FertalySince graduating from SIU with her Master’s in Anthropology in 2009, Kaitlin Fertaly completed a PhD in Geography at the University of Colorado, Denver, continuing her research on women’s household practices in post-Soviet Armenia. Currently, Dr. Fertaly is the Evaluation Services Director at the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana. She is a qualitative researcher and evaluator whose work focuses on understanding community needs and improving systems to address health-equity and access to services, particularly for women, families, and communities that have been historically marginalized.


Andrew Van CleveHi, my name is Andrew Van Cleve! I graduated from SIU in 2017 with a B.A. in Anthropology, and a minor in Forensic Science.

After graduation, I worked at the Center for Archaeological Investigations, where I learned how to do archaeological survey and site recording, helped with archaeological reports, and acquired all the basic skills an archaeologist needs. This led to several summer seasonal jobs with the National Park Service as an archaeological technician at El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico. I helped to record dozens of unrecorded sites including many within some of the lava tubes at the monument. Currently, I am employed by Archaeology Southwest, and attached to Tonto National Monument in Arizona, as a Restoration Archaeologist. I help to protect the nearly 100 archaeological sites within the monument and monitor damage from the 2019 Woodbury Fire that burned through most of the park. I draw upon my knowledge and experience from SIU and the CAI nearly every day in my work.


Michaela HootsMichaela Hoots graduated from SIU Carbondale with a Liberal Arts bachelor's degree in Anthropology. She began attending East Carolina University's Maritime History Master's Program in the Fall of 2020. She has since begun her training in Maritime archaeology, which involves the necessary skillset of diving and performing excavation on underwater sites. Her thesis research focuses on curated material culture representing foodways that were recovered from a shipwreck called La Concorde/Queen Anne's Revenge, found off the coast of North Carolina. These artifacts provide information on three distinct social groups that lived, worked, and were enslaved aboard this vessel—the French La Concorde crew, enslaved Africans, and pirates.

Each of these groups retrieved, prepared, and ate their food in diverse ways, and Michaela intends to specifically research aspects of these habits aboard the now-sunken ship. After completing her thesis, Michaela hopes to further he knowledge and experience in the conservation of maritime artifacts.

JIAYING LIU (PhD 2019), Assistant Professor of Ethnology and Sociology at Southwest Minzu University

Jiaying LiuMy research interests include ritual, religion, and politics, ethnic minorities of Southwest China, and the emerging of global interest in the cultural and creative industry in relation to language, music, and media arts in China.

I conduct most of my research in the Cool Mountains (Liangshan) in Sichuan Province, China.

My field research began with my M.A. study of the fire ceremony or torch festival (dutzie) among the Yi people and has developed during my Ph.D years into a more comprehensive inquiry of several types of Yi magico-religious practices, the lived experience of Yi shaman-priests, and the interface between ritual and social change. More recently, I have extended my concern from mountainous Yi dwelling communities to ethnically-mixed urban areas in Liangshan and Chengdu, and became interested in how senses and social memory are experienced in trajectories of interethnic contact and how these interwoven dynamics influence and shape the emerging co-creation processes in cultural tourism.

I teach courses on language, culture and society, ritual studies, anthropology of tourism, anthropology of popular culture, and selected topics on Yi studies.


Florian TrebouetFollowing the completion of my PhD in Biological Anthropology, I am now teaching classes in the four fields of Anthropology at a community college in Chicagoland. The smaller size classes of community colleges make teaching even more enjoyable and meaningful as you built closer and stronger connections with the students. Smaller size classes allow you to complement your teaching with much more in-class activities and hands-on learning. It is my first-year teaching at a community college, and so far, I’m enjoying it!

Getting a degree in Anthropology at SIU gave me the opportunity to acquire many years of teaching experience in the different fields of Anthropology as a teaching assistant, but also as an instructor of record! Through my time at SIU, I have learnt how to engage and challenge students in my class despite divergent backgrounds, skill levels, and educational goals. My field research experience studying macaques in Thailand has been a great addition to my teaching material by providing students with real-life examples from fieldwork research and a chance to be in the position of a researcher.


Leo VournelisLeo Vournelis is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Baruch College in New York, where he teaches a wide variety of anthropology classes including Urban Anthropology, Anthropology of Technology and Anthropology of Science Fiction. He has published several articles on the Greek Crisis, and continues to research the role of antiquity, money and politics in the transformation of Greek society.


Juan Luis Rodríguez (PhD 2011)

Juan Luis RodriguezJuan Luis Rodríguez is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Queens College of the City University of New York. His recent book Language and Revolutionary Magic in the Orinoco Delta was awarded the 2021 New Voices Book Prize by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology. Dr. Rodríguez is currently engaged in a new research project exploring linguistic intimacy and political subjectivity among Venezuelan diasporic communities in Chile and the U.S.


LLoyd CoakleyMy name is Lloyd Coakley and I graduated in Fall 2019 with a BA in Anthropology (forensic science minor) from SIU. I am now in my second (and final!!) year of the Master's in Counseling Psychology program at the University of Kansas with a focus in masculinity, trauma, help-seeking, and outcomes in veterans and first responders. I plan to continue through the Ph.D. program here. I currently serve as the MS president of the Counseling Psychology Student Organization, and work in the KU Military-Affiliated Student Center as a graduate assistant. I am also a counseling intern at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault providing therapy for adults and children who are survivors of sexual assault and abuse. The things I learned as an undergrad in the anthropology program give me a leg up as a counselor as the field is working more and more to produce culturally competent and culturally humble clinicians. Being able to approach my clients from a culturally relative perspective that I gained at SIU means that the helping relationship is based in respect for their viewpoints, values, and ways of life. SIU Anthropology produces great anthropologists, and their therapists aren't half bad either.

Kaje Questelle (Class of 2018)

Kaje QuestelleFollowing the completion of my studies at SIU, I have taken a position working in youth mental health as a Wraparound Facilitator. We work with our department’s most intensive clients: those with multiple (psychological) hospitalizations, serious legal charges, and are at risk for being removed from their home, school and/or community. I facilitate team meetings with professionals, school and community members, coordinate services for the youth and their family and build natural supports. I am also part of the agency’s crisis team. We are trained to assess lethality (homicidal or suicidal ideation) and to provide intervention or hospitalization based on the client’s unique circumstance.

In both positions, I have found my anthropological training to be invaluable. It has aided me in understanding the socio-economic factors which define this region and has instilled in me the passion to dig deeper, to find what underlies the symptomatic. Often my job requires me to simply get up, go into people’s homes and make myself a part of their lives. I am tasked with collecting their stories, preserving their trust, and building for them the supports they need to make their lives just a little easier. It has been very rewarding thus far and I hope to take an adjacent position in SASS (Screening, Assessment and Support Services) when one is made available.

Jamie Sykes Seiverd (Class of 2015)

Jamie Sykes SeiverdAfter graduating from SIU, I attended graduate school at the University of South Florida where I studied forensic anthropology, specializing in trauma analysis and violence against children. During this time, I became involved in community organizing and began coursework in applied cultural anthropology and qualitative research methods, which proved to be a newfound passion of mine. I accepted a position as a Research and Planning Analyst at the San Diego Community College District, where I conduct research on a variety of topics.

My broad research interests are LGBTQ+ student experience, bridging equity gaps in higher education, college affordability, and enrollment management. I also volunteer for San Diego PATH and the San Diego LGBT Center after work. My time at SIU prepared me for graduate school and my career by providing a solid four-field foundation in anthropology that assisted me in successfully pursuing different areas of the field. I was also afforded multiple lab opportunities as an undergraduate that greatly prepared me for the demand of graduate lab work.

Madison Riden

Maddie Riden

I'm currently living and working in Beijing. I'm with the company English First and I'm teaching English to young learners.

After several weeks of training I'm now teaching classes on my own.

Madison Riden making dumplingsHaving a degree in anthropology, and having done research in Iceland as part of my degree, have helped me to understand the cultural differences and the linguistic needs of the Chinese children that I teach every day! Here I am (pictured, right) learning to make dumplings from my teaching mentor.

Callie Dunkel

Callie Dunkel

I am an outdoor educator, teaching students between 4th-12th grade in environmental, science, leadership, and team building concepts.

We focus on experiential, hands-on learning and spend a majority of our classes outdoors. My other responsibilities include being a lead ropes instructor where I ensure high ropes courses and zipline courses are prepared as needed.

As an outdoor educator, I’m able to provide students with a fun, interactive learning experience and help them build skills they’ll carry with them forever.

Hannah Jordan (née Ward)


I recently took a position as member of the Media Team at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C.. Every week PNAS sends out an embargoed press release to journalists who have requested access to our content, they receive access to pre-published materials under embargo, which allows them to write up articles about our upcoming publications, which publish at the same time as our content in the journal. I work closely with the science writers to create the press release, then I send it out to them. I also help update the PNAS website, enroll journalists in our mailing lists, and help monitor embargoed content, along with other, smaller, tasks. Many Anthropology-related articles have been published by the journal, and my education from SIU, particularly the ANTH senior writing seminar (480), has helped me understand what this is like from the author-end of things so I have a more holistic understanding of the publication process.

Brenden Franson


I graduated with my degree in Anthropology from SIU in 2014. With a focused education in Anthropology and Wildlife Biology, he is striving to help manage and restore the relationship between wildlife, land, and people, "SIU provided me with an excellent academic foundation. The Anthropology program, at SIU, has allowed me to explore my fascination of culture and diversity, and analyze the adaption and change people have with nature." Currently, he is studying Wildlife Biology, at the University of Montana, and examining the change in ecology and wildlife. He states, "It is my dream to collaborate in the management and conservation of ungulate and carnivore populations and habitats, particularly with wolves."

Laurel Dillon-Sumner

Laurel Dillon-SumnerI got my degree in Anthropology from SIU in 2011. As a curator at a children's science museum, the skills I learned from anthropology helped me research and design new exhibits. As a graduate student in Applied Anthropology at University of South Florida, my training has enabled me to conduct original research in public policy and community development.

My work aids community residents in shaping public policy decisions which directly impact their community and way of life. The skills and tools I have learned allow me to work collaboratively with others in a vast array of settings and make entirely unique contributions.

Kohl Dothage

Kohl Dothage

I am currently attending graduate school at Wichita State University. My research interests include forensic taphonomy and the application of forensic anthropology to the preservation and protection of human rights in Latin America.

I am currently attending Wichita State's biological anthropology Master’s Program and working in a laboratory. In the future I hope to complete a PhD in biological anthropology and post-doctoral research in Guatemala.

Erin Hughes

Erin HughesHello! I am Erin Hughes. I graduated from SIU in 2010 with a degree in anthropology, focused in archaeology.

Since then I worked for the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, I came back to SIU to work on a late Woodland lithic collection, and I am currently working towards a Masters degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder, studying the stone tools of the Great Plains.

 Emma Kirby

Emma Kirby

Hi! My name is Emma Kirby and I graduated from SIU Carbondale in December of 2013. I got my degree in Anthropology with a double minor in Forensics and History. I am now currently going to grad school at Wichita State University! I plan to get my Masters in Biological Anthropology (or something of the sort) and then go on to obtain my Doctorate.

I am the Assistant Residence Life Coordinator at Fairmount Towers here in Wichita. I basically assist the Residence Life Coordinator in making sure the building runs smoothly. Go Shockers!! Anyway, once a Saluki, always a Saluki!

Sammy Packard

Sammy Packard

After graduating in 2009 with a focus on biological/medical anthropology, I enrolled in the Peace Corps. It was very much an anthropology student's dream, living in a hut in a rural community of contemporary indigenous people in Panama, treated to big doses of indigenous politics, becoming admirably conversational in the local language, and sitting on both sides of the looking glass as tourists came and went.

Upon returning to the US, I worked with a nonprofit supporting low-income female aspiring entrepreneurs, doing program evaluation and putting to work all the statistical analysis I learned in my research methods courses at SIU. Bored with the cubicle routine, I returned to the Peace Corps for a yearlong assignment. I currently live in the gorgeous western highlands of Guatemala, where 98% of the population is K'iche' Mayan, working in the departmental office of Guatemala's Secretary of Food and Nutritional Security.

As I navigate through what a non-academic career might look like for an anthropology degree-holder, my academic formation at the hands of SIU's anthropology faculty remains at the core of my perceptions and efforts everywhere my travels take me.

Kitty Wilson

Kitty WilsonI have been living in Alaska working with Environmental Protection Agency for the Tlingit people in Sitka. We’re working on protecting a species of fish called "Herring."

The removal of this fish is damaging our ecosystem and, more importantly, it is a traditional food of the natives here. My project with Resource Protection Management is to educate the public, specifically the younger generations of Tlingit, about the traditional uses of the native plants around the island.

I attend tribal meetings, meet the council, and listen to them discuss the ways they can revitalize their culture for younger generations.  I help to mediate the conflict between the fishermen and the natives who are consistently being ignored by the government.