Master’s student blends overseas research, local outreach

Amanda TheilPassionate about plants and nearing graduation with a master’s in cultural anthropology, Amanda Thiel has traveled overseas for her research and educated elementary school children about botany.

Thiel went to rural Guatemala in the summer of 2016 to research ethnobotany, the study of how people use plants in their region. During her two-month stay, she interviewed Q’eqchi’ Maya villagers about the type of plants growing in their gardens, and used the information she gathered for her thesis.

She formed an outreach program last year by gathering a group of her colleagues to educate elementary students at Franklin Elementary School about anthropology. Many students at this age are not familiar with anthropology, Thiel said, and it was important for her to teach them about diversity and similarities in each culture.

Thiel and her colleagues plan to continue this outreach program not only in Washington, but also in Oregon.

Thiel, who is also a single mother, said both WSU Pullman and WSU Vancouver, which she transferred to last semester, have been a positive experience and helpful with childcare.

Jo Bonner, office assistant for the department of anthropology in Pullman, said Thiel is a “down-to-earth ray of sunshine with a generous spirit.” She is positive and hardworking in school, Bonner added.

After graduation, Thiel plans to continue her education at WSU Vancouver, where she will receive her doctorate in cultural anthropology and travel overseas again to conduct more research. Her goal is to someday become a professor and teach students about anthropology.

“Do what you love,” she said, “but also be realistic.”

Top image: Thiel traveled to Guatemala to research ethnobotany, the scientific study of traditional knowledge and customs concerning plants and their medical, religious, and other uses.

Originally posted at The Daily Evergreen >>