Britany Simmons, a 2009 graduate, works in Little Rock with the National MS Society as Development Manager for Bike MS and Walk MS. Before her current job, she worked in community development and outreach for Care for Animals, and before that the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in the same capacity. She credits her anthropology background with helping her get these jobs and perform successfully in her work. She’s able to work comfortably with various groups of people, which have included those of other races, animal lovers, and now people with a particular disability. She makes it clear that you don’t have to go out of the country to encounter difference. “I can be out of my element and still feel comfortable because of my anthropology. I understand about culture, about differences, about similarities. That helps me speak with confidence, even about heavy stuff, with people very different from me.”
Britany credits UALR faculty and discussion classes with challenging her but in a very respectful fashion. She learned to engage in conversations and debates in ways that acknowledged and explored difference while leading to better understanding and respect for others. “Because of my anthropological training, I think more critically. And in the discussion classes, I gained practice in learning to articulate and debate and not get nasty. I learned to articulate my thoughts and back them up.”
In job interviews, she learned to sell herself. Rather than assuming employers valued and understood what anthropology has to offer, she talked about her ability to learn about and work with different types of people, to advocate for them when appropriate, to be flexible and adaptable, to show empathy, and to speak eloquently on behalf of other people whose issues and concerns she can learn to understand. When starting a new job, when looking for potential donors, or when preparing a presentation, “I learn as much as I can. I want to get people excited about what we’re doing. I want to relate to people in the room.” And she loves telling the stories about the people or issues affected by the organizations she’s worked with. Anthropology played a significant role in learning those strategies.
Even though Britany went on to get a Master’s degree in Public History in 2014, she still credits anthropology for much of her success. For example, she was offered a job at the Historic Arkansas Museum before beginning the graduate program. She claims that her anthropology and “my willingness to just dive in” won her the job. She ended up not accepting the job but only because she was ready to begin the graduate program. She says her graduate degree helped her realize she wanted to work with people rather than archives, and it gave her an internship opportunity.
She has advice for students. One is “Do an internship!” These are valuable in so many ways including gaining experience, making contacts, and clarifying what sort of work or career a student wants to pursue. Another is “Get out of your comfort zone! Go outside what you think you’re interested in. I took a gender and science fiction course, and now I’m an avid science fiction reader and recently started a feminist book club because of that course.”
She would be happy to talk with students about her work or about interning with her, and Dr. Flinn is happy to talk with students who want to follow Britany’s advice to complete an internship (and get anthropology credit in the process).