BA in Anthropology

Sarah Campbell, 2015

Sarah Campbell

Year you graduated with your BA

I graduated in 2015

What you are doing currently and the job you hold

My official job title is Community Environmental Conservation (CEC) Extension Agent in Peace Corps Panama. Our job in the CEC sector (there are four sectors total in Peace Corps Panama) is to increase environmental awarness, facilitate a better understanding of environmental conservation issues in Panama, and promote sustainable behavior change through grassroots development programs, co-facilitated with community memebers.

 The Peace Corps development strategy is founded on collaboration and facilitation. Our goal is to go into communities that ask for help, and educate and train community members on how to continue conservation programs after the volunteer leaves through co-facilitation and co-teaching. 

In  the CEC sector, our projects focus mostly on waste management and reforestation. We also have a partner project with MiAmbiente (the environmental department of the Panamanian government) to help communities build eco-friendly stoves in community memebers´ homes to reduce the use of traditional stoves that require a lot of wood and create a lot of smoke. 

What you like about your work

What I like most about the Peace Corps is the development approach we take. Since we are stationed in our community for at least two years, we take the time to form a relationship with the community, build an understanding of what they actually need, then help them achieve their own goals.  My job is basically to make friends with my community, and through those relationships help them develop their own strategies for combating environmental degredation.

 I also love the freedom the Peace Corps gives us with our projects .Our first goal in our communities is to build a community assessment, which is basically an ethnography of the community, co-written by the volunteer and community memebers. Once we have completed it, we have free reign to start whatever projects our community wants. The Peace Corps does not give us a direct plan for development that we must follow, but rather overarching goals to help us facilitate sustainable change in our communities. 

How you use what you learned from anthropology and your anthropological training at Mason

My anthropology degree has been absolutely invaluable to me since day one in Panama. Our entire three-month training centers around cultural objectivity, participant observation, and so many other skills and theories I learned while at Mason. The way we are taught to perceive cultures - and cultural differences - as anthropologists is fundamental to success in community integration and sustainable development. 

I also had the opportunity Junior year to work with an Archeology professor at Mason on a project in conjunction with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. We analyzed and catagorized ancient ceramic pieces from all over Central America, including Panama, for an exhibit in the museum. This project inspired my fascination for Central American culture and was a leading influence in my decision to join the Peace Corps