Alumni Profiles
Kristen Arbuckle

Kristen Arbuckle

Class of 2000

Studying anthropology at Fort Lewis College provided me with the foundation for a satisfying career and experiences that I still draw upon today. The most practical results were skills that showcase well on a resume, but it also helped me with interpersonal skills that are harder to quantify.

A medical anthropology background was the perfect set up to study International Health and Development at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.  I joined the Masters Internationalist program which was comprised of campus coursework and then an internship in the Peace Corps.  My Peace Corps assignment was in a community in the tropical highland territory of the Ngabe-Bugle people, a Native American tribe of Panama, of which over 90% live in extreme poverty. From the start, I felt my medical anthropology background helped with cross-cultural interactions and helped better understand their beliefs about health.  While my main project was to plan and build health infrastructure such as latrines, there was more demand for help with building local businesses.  That led me to work with the women’s artisan group and with coffee farmers.  We worked with groups who help small businesses.  We worked on minor changes to products to make them more attractive to customers, and we worked on accounting and bookkeeping systems.

I extended my tour beyond the regular two years of Peace Corps, to stay a third year as a volunteer coordinator for all of the Peace Corps Volunteers in the Ngabe-Bugle region.  On a daily basis I interacted with distinct cultures of local Native Americans and Latinos, Peace Corps Volunteers, US government workers, Panama City government ministry representatives, and international NGOs.  During this time we expanded the health and coffee projects to new communities.When I moved back to the states, I worked at an international health non-profit for a couple years before eventually coming back to Peace Corps and working at the Washington DC headquarters.  Now, using the business skills I first began to acquire in the Peace Corps, I work as a Budget Analyst.  I work with the posts in Eastern Europe, the

Middle East, and Asia, a multi-million dollar portfolio.  On a daily basis it is a pleasure to work with these diverse posts, translating complex federal budgeting concepts and procedures across cultures and languages, time zones and currencies, knowing that at the other end of the financial system, the resources are being used at a local level for health and development initiatives.  Fort Lewis’s Anthropology degree was definitely the start to this rewarding path.

 

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