Grace Pappalardo

Student Info

Graduation Year:
Spring 2013
Hometown:
Orchard Park, NY

What have you done since graduating and where are you now?
After graduating from RCAH, I moved to Detroit to pursue my MA in linguistic anthropology at Wayne State University. I just finished the PhD application process and plan to continue on for my doctorate in linguistic and cognitive anthropology this coming fall. Since starting at Wayne State a couple years ago, I have had the opportunity to conduct my own research on language as it relates to human cognition and culture. I have worked a lot with Hausa, a West African language I studied at Michigan State, and presented my work at the American Anthropological Association conference this past year. I have also held two teaching assistantships with the anthropology department, which have helped me work toward my eventual goal of being a research scientist and university instructor.

How did RCAH prepare you for what you're doing now?
RCAH prepared me in countless ways that I am still now discovering. Prior to my undergraduate experience, I had never been challenged to examine my own viewpoints critically and learn how to be a part of the social change I wanted to see. I learned about issues of social injustice and systemic inequality and how to dedicate my time to realistically alleviating these ubiquitous societal problems. The faculty and my fellow students in RCAH invested in each other and worked to create a lasting passion for doing good in the world. I was able to hold two internships and a research assistantship with RCAH faculty, all of which became integral in helping me in my future work. My arts and humanities background and engagement with African studies have been essential in my current anthropology masters work because I approach social science problems from a humanities perspective and address the people behind the structures. I can think critically, write effectively, and most importantly be a catalyst for change within my own community and outside of it. I learned that I can do well and do good at the same time.

What were your academic interests in RCAH?
RCAH gave me the rare opportunity to pursue my insanely wide range of interests all at the same time. In addition to my arts and humanities major, I ended up minoring in art history and getting a specialization in African studies. I was also able to study creative writing and poetry and gain exposure to linguistics and anthropology, which helped me discover my current path.

What were your favorite aspects of the RCAH experience?
While it is hard to pick just a few, I have to say that some of my favorite aspects were the tight-knit, supportive community and the wide range of opportunities available. Every faculty member in RCAH is an incredible resource and mentor and they will go out of their way to help you follow what you love and make it a reality. This became especially apparent to me when I was filling out graduate school applications and I had an immediate list of people willing to write recommendations for me. The relationships I was able to form with both my fellow students and faculty were unlike anything I had experienced before. The RCAH community is a deeply caring, highly motivated group of people all rooting for each other to succeed and be their best selves.

Did you ever take part in Study Abroad/Study Away at MSU? If so, which programs?
Yes! Before I was even a freshman in RCAH, I had the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa. I studied systemic inequality and the after effects of Apartheid, especially in education. This program encouraged me to pursue my study of the Hausa language and eventually specialize in African studies. A couple years later, I studied abroad again in Ghana for a month and worked as an intern for BASICS International, which provides after school programming for local kids in order to break the cycle of poverty through educational success and self-empowerment.

What words of wisdom do you have for current RCAH students?
Do what you love. Life feels so worth living when you can wake up every morning and go do something that you feel passionate about. I encountered a lot of skepticism in my degree choice, but I have never regretted being a part of RCAH because of the real world experiences I had and the skills I developed because of it. You will leave RCAH not only a better student, but a better human being, ready to take on the world.