What motivated you to pursue a PhD?
"I knew in college that I wanted to pursue a career in anthropology, but it was through Peace Corps that I found my calling. I spent two years in rural Cameroon working as an English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) instructor at a local high school. It was there that I discovered my love of teaching and, during the protests and riots of spring 2008, also found my research focus. Though my small town was far from the riots, I shared with my Cameroonian neighbors and colleagues the fear for friends in affected areas and the challenge of continuing daily life in the face of ambiugity. This experience, my witnessing the human ability to carry on in the face of violence, inspired me to pursue a PhD focused on a better understanding of how people recover from conflicts."
What are your current research interests in anthropology?
"My current research interests are violence, identity, and memory, especially among young people. My dissertation focuses on the interplay between memory and Protestant youth identity in the aftermath of Northern Ireland's Troubles. By highlighting the important role young men and women may play in constructing new, post-conflict identities, I hope to add to current understandings of how people recover from violent conflict."
What would you tell prospective students about your PhD education at UB? What opportunities have become available to you through the program and/or the university?
"The Anthropology department at UB is a great place to build a strong foundation through courses, pursue your research interests through the guidance of your professors, advisers, and colleagues, and to find a network of friends who will support you throughout the challenges of earning a PhD. The wider university community also offers the chance for all kinds of interdisciplinary collaboration, from interest groups to conferences and workshops."
What are your future goals?
"My future goals are 1) to expand my research on memory and youth identity to conflicts in West Africa and 2) to inspire students to critically engage with the role of culture in their own lives and in the world around them."
Laura, do you have any final recommendations for future graduate students interested in pursuing graduate studies in anthropology at UB?
"Buffalo winters are tough, but the sledding is great!"
Laura Levon is a graduate student in Cultural Anthropology.