After the Bubble bursts

Kristi Tabaj ’96

I don’t say that in a negative
way. Lawrence certainly served
as a stepping-stone to shiny new
adventures. Heck, “getting out of
dodge” by way of Lawrence was
once a big dream in and of itself.
Just the other day I dusted off the
yearbooks as I packed them away
for my next adventure.
Even before I left Lawrence, I
had gone west – to Nevada. Not
long after graduation I moved to
Las Vegas to work for the Forest
Service – yes, there are mountains
and trees close to Sin City.
Somehow I got mixed up in wildland
firefighting and archaeology…
anthropology degrees do come in
handy!
Right before the dawn of the
21st century, I began to question
how saving the forests was really
benefiting people. Now don’t get
me wrong, preserving and renewing
our oxygen supply obviously
has its benefits, but the silence of
the forest couldn’t match my daily
interactions with people from all
walks of life.
My decision to join the Peace
Corps was the start of my journey
in international development.
I never took advantage of living
abroad options offered through
LU, but my time had finally come
to explore the wider world.
It all started in Latin America
and my true passions began to
evolve, never really straying far
from where I started, though. While
I never considered myself grad
school material – and this certainly
was reflected in my undergrad
GPA – I worked hard to establish
myself as a serious student, taking
on a $9-per-hour internship at the
age of 29 for nine months prior to
even applying for school.
I was surrounded by incredible
critical thinkers who debated
our food systems from a policy
level right down to the soil. My
grad school recognized that I was
serious about learning and my
work paid off. A little over two
years, two fellowships and two
countries later, I started off on
new adventures just like when
I left Lawrence. The destinations
were a little further and the work
a little more intense: rural poverty
in Ghana, post-hurricane recovery
in Guatemala and attempts to
rebuild shattered livelihoods in
Afghanistan.
All in all, I have to say that
my anthropology degree came in
handy in more one ways than one.

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