Statement of [Supposed] Purpose

Posted on December 1, 2011

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[This is what grad school probably wants to hear, right? And I do mean it all, but I’m just not all sure what it all means, exactly. And I’m the one who wrote it.]

USF Anthropology

M.A. Statement of Purpose

When creating my Plan of Study for my undergraduate degree at Oregon State University, I emphasized strongly the importance of the human story. In explaining the purpose of choosing to pursue a Master’s degree in Applied Anthropology, this concept of an individual and universal story is not only relevant but is of cardinal importance in my continued approach of an Anthropological track scholastically and professionally. Personal travels in my youth as the dependent of a military officer provided an early widening of my cultural lens and personal experiences as a volunteer directed me toward a social service slant in my work and volunteer efforts.

An appropriate appreciation for and understanding of cultural mores is a necessary foundation to a long term track to work on social justice and social service issues. My heart lies with serving people, but no person can be amply served unless his/her traditions, beliefs, and preferences are first learned and better understood.

My professional experience in the social service field filling several different roles has allowed me to witness firsthand some rather interesting sub-cultures within the larger systematized framework that exists in the United States. Despite having worked with well-educated and sufficiently degreed individuals over the course of several years in multiple states, there appears to have been a distinct lack of concern for any form of a cultural approach or integration within mental health, alternative education for at-risk youth, or substance abuse treatment settings. It is my desire to integrate such a viewpoint within an effectively implemented and publicly accepted social service program in the future.

In my past academic endeavors, performing ethnographic studies helped to highlight this particular lack of integration continuously while also providing practice for more long term fieldwork exploring ideas where such an integration may occur. While touching on mental health, substance abuse, and community education needs during my ethnographic studies I encountered the concepts of communal living and what are commonly referred to as intentional communities. Studying this culture and its impact on social service work as well as local environment and economy was stretched out over the course of several terms and multiple ethnographic papers. It is my desire during the course of acquiring my Master’s degree in Applied Anthropology to continue this study on intentional communities that exist within an urban environment and to hone my research skills to a more professional level.

The ineffectiveness of reaching clearly stated end goals in so many social service fields which sometimes is the result of an extremely narrow cultural approaches inspires me to seek out another way. In my undergraduate studies on intentional communities I was blessed to be a first-hand witness to the high efficacy of several many-faceted approaches when specific recovery or outcome goals were clearly stated prior to treatment or community partnership with an individual or a sub group within the larger community. Utilizing a pre-established cultures’ norms to guide treatment of social and mental needs illustrates a level of respect for the sanctity of the ways in which cultural beliefs and traditions deeply affect an individual.

In line with my particular interest in social service work and the effect that culture has on the manner in which it is carried out, I am considering future admission to the dual degree program offered through USF with a Master’s in Public Health focusing on Behavioral Health. Having worked as a Behavioral Health Technician in a residential treatment facility for male and female teenagers as well as a Youth Care Counselor for a residential facility for high-risk male youth I feel I have gained invaluable experience from a public health as well as an anthropological perspective. Maintaining an objective view towards the groups of individuals one works with in the mental health and social service field is vitally important in order to maintain appropriate boundaries, but from an anthropological standpoint it is imperative so that unfamiliar cultural influences can be assessed in light of their own impact rather than personal belief or bias on the part of the professional offering services to the client. This model of interaction is helpful for everyday interactions as well so that incorrect conclusions are not drawn from first impressions.

Having worked my way through my undergraduate degree and completed my last two years of school entirely online during three interstate moves, my marriage, and severe family illness, there is a measure of self-motivation and time management skill required in order to balance an education, professional life, and highly valued personal relationships. My current position as a Student Advocate for a dropout recovery program in Hillsborough County is a self-supervised position where I act as the only face-to-face representative for the company to students completing their high school diploma online through the diversion program. Acting as an Ambassador for the company within Hillsborough County requires a strong professional demeanor and determination to complete tasks on time, with integrity, and according to company policy. The same honor is carried from my work life into my personal life and my education.

For my graduate professor, particularly because of her work dealing with informal education and urban agriculture and its relationship to my previous studies of intentional communities, I would like to work with Dr. Rebecca Zarger. It is my intention to continue working professionally and volunteering within the social service fields I am currently active in while I acquire my Master’s so that rather than maintaining and growing my intellect within a purely academic vacuum I am diligent in constantly using my new knowledge and am applying my education in real-time.

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