Alumni Speak: Marissa Smith’08

By Marissa Smith’08

I graduated from Beloit in 2008, and am on my way to becoming an academic anthropologist. Like over half of Beloit students, I studied abroad after taking classes in anthropology as well as Russian and East Asian studies, studying Russian at Beloit’s Center for Language Studies, and presenting at International Symposium Day upon my return.  I am currently in my fourth year of PhD studies at Princeton University and often meet other people who know of Beloit and have also benefited from participation in CLS and other Beloit-related programs like the Russian for international students program at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.

Though I would certainly not exchange my Beloit undergrad experience for a Princeton one, comparing the programs at both schools is interesting and the two could certainly do well in borrowing from one another. Foreign language and other “international” programs at Princeton, for example, are not nearly as integrated with extra-curricular pursuits as Beloit is, with events like the weekly meetings at the Russian House where we would prepare food together with professor Olga Ogurtsova and talk about anything Russia-related.

On the other hand, Princeton has a number of student groups, especially performance groups, that pair with “ethnic” studies programs. These programs are not complete departments or majors but associations of professors and students from a range of disciplines coming together to organize more programs, such as lectures series, seminars for students and professors to present works in progress, food nights and performance groups. Like Beloit’s international programs, ethnic studies programming at Princeton helps to prepare students to be engaged, informed and effective members of any community that they may choose or find themselves a part of.

As I have spent more time outside the United States I have come to value more and more the time I spent at Beloit considering the work of “ethnic” studies scholars in anthropology classes and lectures. I also regret that while at Beloit I spent too much time ignoring and tolerating devastating race-related issues affecting the community on and off campus. I wish the current generation of Beloiters all the best and trust that they can and will organize to address these issues and hope that they can gain from my sharing perspectives gained from participation in the Princeton community.



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