As a graduate student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Illinois State University, I was trained in educational pedagogy, and had the opportunity to work alongside and support expert educators in every facet of their work. As a member of the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development, I learned to recognize community assets that help me find the best in all levels of social organizations, while also learning to think theoretically about multiple perspectives on constraints to development and how to revisit my personal contribution to the globalized social sphere. As a Sociologist and a professional, I learned how to apply sociological thinking to real-world discourse and work situations, from creating confidence in individualized students with self-limiting behavior patterns to participating actively in social movements with an eye on their mores and sphere of influence.
The first place my education at ISU took me was to West Africa, where I transferred my understanding of Gender and Development from the Stevenson Center to an experience of initiating and managing a Young Girls' Mentoring Center to assist a community of 70 middle school-aged girls from more than 50 families in a context where the entire community expected only 3% of them to finish high school. However, for the majority of the past decade, I have been working with governments, nonprofits and private businesses across southern China, as a trainer, mentor, program manager, organizational representative, students' rights advocate and translator. During this time, I've built an international social network that spans more than 100 nations and every conceivable industry. My career has funded my continued development of marketable language skills, several libraries of academic research, and my extremely dear personal research into how holistic medicinal systems and mind-body practices are the ideal site for intercultural exchange.
I'm still pretty young and can't promise you what my next adventure will be, but I think I can affirm that one of my first big adventures was one Monday morning at 9 am in September, 2007, nervously meeting my cohort at ISU for the first time, as we waited in Williams hall for Dr. Stivers to open the door and deliver our first lesson.