One of the many questions I get from people I meet is how I have two Bachelors degrees, forensic and anthropology, yet I work at a college and am getting my Masters in Education. I mean, surely I could have gotten a job or continued in the field if I wanted to right? Well, its actually not that simple. There were many different reasons why I decided to switch career paths after I graduated and this is that story.
I have been interested in Forensics for a very long time. Like most people, my interest began with crime and law enforcement television shows like CSI, NCIS, and Hawaii Five-0. I was fascinated by the science behind everything and the practical use of science to make a difference in society. Then, I came across a show called Bones, which many of you may know. I became obsessed with the human skeletal system and the stories that it could tell. I began doing some research on forensic anthropology and the actual background of the field. While the show does not always accurately portray the show, I was introduced to the world of forensic anthropology and decided that it was what I wanted to do.
When going to college, I decided to choose a degree in general forensic science so I had the opportunity to go into many fields if anything changed during my time at school. I went to Arizona State University- West, where my major was located. I had the time of my life there. I got involved and became very much a student leader within the campus community, which I absolutely loved. My whole life became working in events and activities for the school and student leadership. I worked with many different programs and organizations to stay as involved at the university as possible. However, academics were still important for me. As I advanced through my degree, I knew that I wanted to continue with forensic anthropology. I had the opportunity to attend a field school in bioarchaeology and osteology. I was over the moon for this study, but it got the best of me. This was an intensive program that was speed up due to the time restraints of the course. This was one of the first times I realized I had an anxiety disorder. There were so many different elements of this study that gave me panic, to a point where I was having severe panic attacks every day. I decided to withdraw from the program because it wasn’t good for my health and I knew it would affect my grades. However, I still wanted to go into forensic anthropology, just at a slower pace. I added a Bachelors of Science in anthropology as a double major and continued my education, ending in a thesis on ancestry estimation in forensic anthropology.
When senior year rolled around, there were a lot of questions around what I would be doing next. I told everyone what I always knew: grad school in forensic anthropology. That was the plan from the beginning and it was where I was going next. Now, if you look into forensic anthropology programs, they are extremely competitive. It is not an easy field to get into. I had lined up a forensic internship with the DPAA and finished my grad school applications. To say I was nervous about if I would be accepted into grad school would be an understatement. Everything I had planned for revolved around me going to grad school for forensic anthropology. The anxiety around this had major repercussions in every part of my life as I had to wait to see if my future would play out the way I wanted. Around April, I started hearing from different schools I had applied to. After getting two rejections, I was hoping that my last school would be it. One morning, I checked my email and saw the word rejected. I was devastated. I had one of the worst panic attacks I have ever had. I couldn’t function for the rest of the day and for the rest of the week, I felt numb. I only had one plan for next year and now it was gone. My life felt like it was in shambles. And now I had to make a huge decision: what’s next? Work and apply for grad school next year or just find something else to do.
During all this craziness, I was still really involved on campus and I had met a lot of amazing people working in higher education. As senior year rolled around, a lot of people asked if I was going to continue in higher education. ASU has a masters program in higher education that I knew a lot of people continued on in. It was definitely a thought in my mind but I knew I wanted to continue in forensics. Now that my future was unsure, I went back to that thought. The student services staff at ASU had made a major impact on my development into adulthood. I say all the time that I would not be the person I am today without those people. Once I found out the news that I didn’t have plans after I graduated, I met with one of my mentors to talk about what could be next for me. He encouraged me to look into the program because he knew how passionate I was about leadership and engagement on a college campus. Luckily, ASU had a rolling deadline for their higher education masters so I was still able to apply. I quickly turned in my application and in June, I was accepted into the program. I felt this renewed feeling of purpose because I was had some future set out for me. I knew that I was very interested in working in higher education but I still was unsure. My life had just taken a huge turn and I had a lot of adjusting to do.
It took a year for me to settle in and realize that I love working in higher education. As I am advancing my education, I get to work in the sphere that I would like to and that feels amazing. I get to be a small part of students’ experiences in college and maybe have some sort of an impact like staff did for me. It can be such a rewarding experience. I still have a lot of anxiety around whether I made the right decision and I don’t think that will ever go away. There will always be a “what if” but as long as I continue to love what I am doing, I’m not going to focus on that so much.
I have no regrets in how my college career turned out. I am lucky enough that I was able to have multiple passions in my life that could be a career path for me. I love science and the way forensics can have an impact on someone. I loved learning ways that I could give someone back their story. But I love working with students as they grow and develop into adults and citizens of the world. I love putting on events that someone may look back on as a fond memory. If there is one thing that I can see through everything that I am passionate about, I want to make an impact on someone’s life. Whether that is helping give someone closure or teaching students the life skills I found useful in college, I will feel satisfied if I knew I made a difference. I don’t know where my life will take me or what field I will end up in, but that is okay. As long as I live life passionately, I believe I will be happy in anything I do. If you are unsure about your degree in college or what you may want to do, know that sometimes, you change your mind and that is okay. You change and the world around changes. As long as you keep living your life with passion, I think you’ll be alright.