When Kara Venzian took an anthropology course at Missouri State University as a requirement for her degree, it completely changed what she planned to study.
“I fell in love with the content and point of view so much,” said Venzian, who grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. “It honestly was the approachability and experience the professors brought to the students that blew me away.
Finding her path
Venzian decided to pursue a degree in anthropology with a minor in political science. The opportunity to learn about people, cultures and societies in depth instilled in her a desire to explore more of the world.
In addition, her involvement in fraternity and sorority life (FSL) on campus taught her how to lead and serve others.
“I found people who were able to challenge me intellectually and socially in ways I had never anticipated,” Venzian said. “I would not have had the leadership opportunities or the social justice opportunities I needed for my personal development if I had not been part of FSL.”
Serving in the Peace Corps
Venzian’s love for adventure, discovering new cultures and meeting people inspired her to join the Peace Corps when she graduated from Missouri State in 2017. She worked as a community youth empowerment volunteer on a remote island of Fiji, where there was no electricity or running water.
“It was a wild ride for two years!” Venzian said. “My anthropology background greatly prepared me for this experience, as well as fueled my passion for discovery about the iTaukei people (indigenous Fijians).”
On the island, Venzian worked at the local elementary school, where she trained teachers, wrote grants and helped students with their everyday needs. She also got involved with several projects in the village, such as helping the Women’s Group to create sustainable alternative menstrual pads and working with the mayor to acquire solar panels.
She even picked up the iTaukei indigenous language while living there.
Pursuing graduate studies
When Venzian completed her Peace Corps stint, she applied for the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program. It provides financial assistance to returned volunteers who want to attend graduate school.
She got a full ride to study global affairs with a concentration in sustainable development at the University of Notre Dame. While studying, she works with Catholic Relief Services on an anthropological ethnographic study of homes in refugee camps in Uganda and Nepal.
Venzian believes her undergraduate degree has given her an edge in her master’s program.
“I’ve found that my particular culturally sensitive and research-based viewpoints and set of skills have come in handy in classes, as well as in professional work within my program,” she said. “I have the anthropology department to thank for that.”
When she completes her master’s degree next year, Venzian wants a career in cultural sustainability. She hopes to work with a partner organization for the United Nations Development Program doing program management, or as a development consultant.