Illinois State University student Maria Kitchin has been selected as an inaugural Undergraduate Research Fellow for the American Anthropological Association.

A junior anthropology major from Chicago, Kitchin was awarded the fellowship for her project “Anthropology Undergraduates Plan for Life after College.” She is one of only six students in the nation to receive the fellowship.

Her project seeks to better understand how anthropology students talk about their future plans. “Like other liberal arts majors, anthropology majors often receive mixed messages about the value and purpose of their college education,” said Kitchin. “In a moment when many people question the value of a liberal arts degree, I want to better understand how anthropology majors think about the relevance of their academic interests in relation to their possible future careers.”

Kitchin will work with fellow student-researchers from Professor of Anthropology Gina Hunter’s ethnography course and conduct interviews with students about their major, aspirations, and future. “By collecting students’ personal narratives, we will be able to examine the ways students are constructing their sense of self,” said Kitchin.

Hunter, who is also Kitchin’s mentor for the fellowship, said the project is an opportunity for Kitchin to develop as a researcher. “It will give her valuable research, writing, and presentation skills, and it puts her in contact with anthropology students and faculty from several other universities in this collaborative project,” said Hunter.

Kitchin, who plans to pursue an anthropology doctorate, said she hopes the project’s finding could be valuable for improving anthropology programs across the country. “I am continually inspired by anthropology’s ability to encourage unique perspectives and provide answers to some of humanity’s most complex questions,” said Kitchin. “In a field that straddles the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities, I found my passion: to understand what makes us human.”

The fellowship is funded by the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Learning and Scholarship are core values of the University. Find out more in Educate Connect Elevate: Illinois State—The Strategic Plan for Illinois’ First Public University 2018-2023.