Elaine Menotti, B.A. (1995)

United States Agency for International Development; Global Health Bureau; Washington, DC

B.A., Cultural Anthropology, B.A., Biological Anthropology and Anatomy (1995)

How has being a Cultural Anthropology graduate from Duke helped shape you personally and/or professionally?

"I was always interested in the diversity of this world and what factors define, shape and drive the behavior, values and ways of life for people, communities, and societies. Initially, I thought that I wanted to study primate ecology, but midway through my Duke career I found Cultural Anthropology was closer to my interests, curiosity and the career I was imagining for myself. Cultural Anthropology studies (and Religion classes through different Duke departments) helped shape my way of thinking and analysis. I learned qualitative research skills. I gained perspective on my own lens and where I come from when I work with people and communities that are different from my own. At this time, I also took part in different programs through the Sanford Institute of Public Policy (Service Opportunities in Leadership, Hart Leadership Program, Hart/Hine Fellows Program) where I had the opportunity to travel and live in Nicaragua and Honduras, working with grassroots organizations, communities and national NGOs focused on public health and human rights issues. These complemented my studies and directed me toward a career in global public health, focusing on maternal and child health, reproductive health, and infectious disease."

What advice would you give students in Duke's Cultural Anthropology programs? 

"Listen to yourself, go with what excites you, what interests you in your studies and try to shape a career from there. There are many important foundational elements you can study and refine that will prepare you for your eventual career, even if your career isn't ultimately exactly in your major/minor study area. Use your CA (and other) studies to understand who you are and why, what you are good at and where you can strengthen and improve to be better and do better. Take time to learn how to analyze problems and ways to collectively solve them (there is never only one way), work on your observation and listening skills and not proving any point, be curious and wonder about things, focus on how to write clearly and persuasively, learn different ways to engage in productive dialogue, debate and conversation with others. Allow yourself to fail, mess up, and be wrong - because this is helpful also."

Elaine Menotti