Skip to Main Content

Beyond the Major


Kersti Kennedy

Kersti Kennedy

Kersti H. Kennedy | Attorney

My anthropology studies have influenced my life in three broad ways: 1) by changing how I go about daily living; 2) by informing how I think about my relationships and interactions with other people; and 3) by understanding the world of human behavior at a deeper level.

On the first point, as an example, anthropology has influenced my eating habits. I understand that though the human diet can be quite varied, not all foods are equally healthful. I try my best to stay away from  highly-processed foods. Similarly, I understand that often the current medical recommendations on what to eat can completely miss the mark, because they are based on a truncated view of human history. Mainstream dietary recommendations are often founded on less than a century’s worth of data from Western populations. Anthropology pushes you to consider millions of years of human life and also asks you to look globally when considering what to eat. I think anthropological studies can also inform how you exercise, sleep, and use technology.

Secondly, my studies have changed how I think about human behavior. Fundamentally, humans are self-interested, but depending on the incentives in the environment, that self-interest can be a force for positive or negative change. This insight is frequently useful in the study of law. For example, a particular legal rule may incentivize individuals to enter mutually-beneficial contracts, or a bad legal rule may encourage people to engage in theft. The people may be the same, but the institutional environment can increase bad behavior or good behavior. Anthropological principles also have given me the tools to more accurately predict how judges, opposing parties, and clients will behave in  a particular situation, which improves my ability to predict case outcomes. Lawyers are notoriously bad at predicting whether they will win or lose, and I sense my educational background has helped me be more realistic and accurate when advising clients.

Lastly, my anthropological studies have allowed me to see the world of human interaction in a more dimensional way. Anthropology doesn’t just help us understand how people behave, but why they do what they do. Studying anthropology can give you a sense that you are being let in on some secret about the human race, and that feeling will stay with you and provide useful insights long after graduation.

Bill with mountain goat

Bill with mountain goat

Bill Holland-Smith | Non-traditional Student

When I applied for admission to Boise State, I was considered to be a non-traditional student. Having retired from two successful careers and being eligible to collect social security that appellation seemed appropriate. I quickly discovered a major benefit to this classification was the freedom to learn just for the sake of learning, without the encumbrance of filling degree requirements associated with any particular career.

My interest in people and places dates back to some my earliest childhood memories. As an adult I was fortunate to spend many years abroad where my interest in people was expanded to include their cultural heritages. So it was a natural first step to enroll in an anthropology class.

This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. While I had a lifetime of one-to-one personal experiences, acquiring street credentials with people from Greenland to Saudi Arabia and Panama to Denmark, I was missing the common denominator, the thread that brought them all together. The cross-cultural perspective of anthropology brought unity to these experiences in a way that has contributed to my personal development and enriched my life by providing insight not only into the behavior of others but my own behavior as well. Furthermore, my studies in anthropology have opened many avenues of intellectual pursuit that I would have otherwise missed.

David Christensen

David Christensen

David Christensen | Archaeologist

In July, I finished up a TERM Arch. Tech position with the Park Service at Organ Pipe Cactus, NM. I ended up being the lead on a cultural survey for a big restoration project in the park. We were trying to fix some wilderness destruction due to Border Patrol and illegal smuggIing. It was great because I was able to get more experience with surveying, NEPA, NHPA, and such. I also worked with Claire Dean on some rock art restoration and analysis, and TJ Ferguson from University of Arizona and some of his students on trying to identify sections of the Salt Trail from the Gulf of California into Arizona. We recently took a trip into Mexico to see the salt beds and visit with scientists from the Pinacate Reserve.

I am now an archaeologist in Vernal, UT, working for the BLM. There are several archaeologists here to help process contract work for oil and gas. Many previous archaeologists didn’t realize what kind of work they would be doing here so they moved on. We make excuses to get out in the field as much as we can, and are working on getting some projects of our own going. I just wanted to say thank you for a solid education and understanding in scientific anthropology. I always tell people that I attended BSU and the Anthropology Department. It seems to be getting more and more well known.

Margaret Amundson

Margaret Amundson

Margaret Amundson | Classical Archaeology

I originally attended Boise State when I obtained my first degree in marketing. As I was completing that degree I found my interests were more drawn towards ancient history, archaeology, and cultural studies, so I returned to Boise State to the Anthropology Department for my second degree in anthropology. The faculty was very caring and interested in me as an individual, as well as in the success of my studies. I worked as a research assistant to Dr. Ziker, and as I spent time in the department I found that all of the professors were always happy to talk with me about various topics in anthropology and archaeology, provide guidance, and answer my questions. What really made an impression on me, though, was the way the professors often treated me more as a colleague than a subordinate. I have since found out from several students of other universities and from professionals in my field, that my experiences in the Anthropology Department at Boise State were actually quite unique.

Thanks to the support and encouragement of my professors, and the well-rounded education I received in anthropology and archaeological theory and methodologies at the Anthropology Department at Boise State, I have been able to further my studies and my career far beyond what I had envisioned when I first enrolled. I have since obtained my MA in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter in the UK, and have recently been accepted by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, to begin my PhD in Classical Archaeology. Although my primary focus is on underwater archaeology, I just returned from an archaeological expedition to the United Arab Emirates where I worked in collaboration with the Municipality of Dubai and the Sanisera Archaeological Institute of Menorca, Spain, to excavate Sarouq al Hadeed, a major Iron Age II copper smelting and arts and crafts production site in the Rub’ al Khali Desert. No matter where my passions for archaeology and academic research take me, I still look back fondly on my studies in the Boise State Anthropology Department as one of the best times I’ve ever had.

three people sitting at table

Shane Scaggs, Delaney Glass, and John Ziker.

Shane Scaggs | Graduate Student

Tomorrow morning I will be setting out for Anchorage en route to the Aleutian peninsula for two weeks of apprentice fieldwork. I am very fortunate to be gaining applied experience with the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game and to be working with a great advisor in Drew Gerkey.

As expected, the weeks leading up to this short trip have been filled with a bit of anxiety and plenty of mental preparation and eagerness. More and more, however, I find myself reflecting on the essence of the past and the culmination of experiences that have led me to this moment. Indeed, this is THE moment for many young researchers. The moment in which you feel you are finally are becoming an anthropologist, an ecologist, an archaeologist, or whatever else you dream to be, as you enter the field. Through this reflection, I have been contemplating how I got to this moment. This question and the reflection that surrounds it has become substantially more significant in the wake of growing political and social turmoil. Thus, it is out of a deeply personal gratitude that I decided to write to you all tonight.

I will never forget what it felt like to come back to the Anthropology program in 2014. I was welcomed back with open arms. In the interim, there had been four new hirings. The program had a new direction that seemed to put research in the hands of the students. Through the next two years, I fell in love with the science and the skills I was learning. Indeed, I might have graduated in 2015 but decided to extended my stay in order to take advantage of new research labs. I will never regret that decision to stay longer. In many ways, I got to this point through hard work and perseverance. I retook 6 classes, focused on an optional thesis, and took part in your amazing research groups.

But honestly? I am nothing without all of you. Indeed all of us are nothing without each other. And although this concept is not novel to any of us (or perhaps to anyone of a holistic background), we simply do not acknowledge it enough. We do not make it known that we depend on one another for growth. And frankly, we need it now more than ever. When I arrived back at Boise State in 2014, I was provided with tremendous support, mentorship, opportunities, and importantly, the criticism and guidance that might push me in the direction of a graduate program.

Again, let me be very clear: certainly you all know of the importance of educators and anthropological study. But we do not tell each other this enough and with the times that may lie ahead, it is evermore paramount that you receive this message. I am profoundly fortunate to have been mentored by all of you. I cannot fathom the person I might be without your guidance. Due to your efforts and teachings, I have already been recognized by my peers as one of the most prepared incoming graduate students to this program.


Drew McGuire

Drew McGuire |Community Development Planner

After graduating from the Boise State Anthropology Program I entertained of many possible career paths. I ultimately landed in the non-profit world. I am currently employed as a Community Development Planner with Region IV Development Association. We engage local communities in Region IV of Idaho with the purpose of helping them plan, execute, and finance public works projects. These projects include but are not limited to: water, and wastewater systems; downtown revitalization; fire stations, and medical clinics; senior, and community centers; job creation, and retention. This work requires the ability to communicate and forge relationships with locally elected officials, government agencies, engineers, city workers, business leaders, and the general public.

My education in anthropology has facilitated my success in the field of Community Development because it has broadened my understanding of many aspects of human behavior while simultaneously equipping me with invaluable technical skills. Each community that I have the opportunity to work with has its own unique culture and set of behaviors. I have tried to practice ethnographic methods of identifying key informants, participant observation, and learning the local vernacular in order to better communicate with the local governments and general public in the cities that I work with. These techniques have allowed me to develop relationships and build trust, which is essential to the work I do. The writing and research skills that I developed as an anthropology student have been incredibly helpful to my ability to be successful at my job. Understanding how to craft an argument with language and documentation is the name of the game for any grant writing effort.

Ultimately studying anthropology has made me a more rounded individual both personally and professionally. I would encourage anyone to take some anthropology courses as part of their college career. You might just find out that humans are more fascinating than you could have possibly imagined. I had originally planned to major in criminal justice at Boise State University, but after one anthropology course I was hooked and decided to change my major. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.