Carmen Mosley-Sims, a 1999 graduate, is Assistant Director for the Division of Youth Services with the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Committed to issues of social justice, Carmen attended law school, spent two years as a law clerk with a federal magistrate judge, worked for legal aid in eastern Arkansas, and then returned to Little Rock to work as an attorney for the Department of Human Services. As she moved from staff attorney to attorney supervisor to managing attorney, however, she found herself moving farther away from the people she served and wanted a change. Although the opening in the Division of Youth Services meant no longer practicing law, she values the opportunity to actively apply what she has learned about the law, our community, current issues, and the juvenile justice system.
Carmen has appreciated over the years how her anthropology background prepared her for successfully dealing with new and unfamiliar situations–even including the courage needed to face them to begin with. In fact, she highly recommends that majors take our Ethnographic Methods course so that they learn to conduct their own ethnographies. Hers was on local midwives, but the possibilities are endless. Conducting the research project is an opportunity to experience learning about another way of thinking and working. “It also teaches you the kind of courage you need to go into those situations. People stagnate because they’re afraid to go into unknown territory.” Anthropology provides the skills, opportunity, and courage to successfully navigate new and diverse situations.
As Carmen puts it, “Anthropology has made me better at every job I’ve had.” For example, she makes a point of learning the particular language and the norms of people she works with. She communicates with the musing their own terms and patterns of behavior rather than expecting them to meet her where she is. “I learned in anthropology to appreciate that others have their own way of viewing the world. That helps keep you calm and sane, and helps you reach compromises even in difficult situations.”
The diversity of anthropology itself–covering a wide range of biological, social science, and humanities topics–has helped her feel comfortable building relationships and connecting with a wide range of people. In fact, she encourages majors to build as broad a base of knowledge as possible while still in college. “Diversify your knowledge!” is her charge. She majored in anthropology in large part because her interests were so wide-ranging: biology, language, economics, political science. Once she took Cultural Anthropology, she realized anthropology let her do it all. Her advice to undecided students: major in anthropology!