“People often ask, ‘What are you going to do with an anthropology major?’ The question is what am I not going to do with this degree?”
Ellen Gilbert '12 isn't looking for personal riches, fame, or glory. She simply wants to pursue her passion for ensuring a secure future for all people, in all places, and in all walks of life. That passion began with her discovery of anthropology.
"I've always had so many interests," Gilbert says. "That drew me to cultural anthropology and the diversity that exists in cultures." Gilbert's enthusiasm remains. "I'm continually fascinated by things that I study," she says, adding, "I think it is the most important major, especially with international affairs. You have to learn to be selfless and relate to people."
Gilbert displays her selflessness beyond the classroom. As an intern at Lexington's Habitat for Humanity, she helped establish housing for the impoverished, researching different organizations that may be willing to donate time or money to the charity. "I can see the direct implications. I learned a lot about non-profit organizations, which is what I'm interested in," she says.
Gilbert also studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, where she immersed herself in Irish culture and solidified her passion for connecting to new ways of life. Not only did she earn "a lot of anthropology credits," she also witnessed a growing awareness of cultural identity. As an increasing number of natives were reclaiming Irish language and tradition, Gilbert proved her desire to relate, taking a class in the language and staying with an Irish-speaking family for a weekend.
Currently a student at The New School in New York City where she is working on a master's degree in international affairs, Gilbert eventually hopes "to work in the non-profit sector and use anthropology to help improve humanitarian aid."
"I want to be a part of this humanitarian revolution I see happening," she says. "I want to help lift others out of poverty rather than throwing money at the problem." Gilbert is aware that her dream may not sound practical or offer a stable, predictable future. "But it's my passion," she declares. "I don't want to know where I'm going to end up. I think that is something I was born to do."