It was an upside down map that put Nicolle LaNasa on her career path.
The honors student arrived at UA knowing she wanted to, "live my life serving others, but I had no idea which major would give me the knowledge and skills to do so in an effective, educated and understanding way."
Then she took an anthropology class taught by Dr. Carolyn Behrman, who gave a map of the world a 180-degree turn one day early in the semester and challenged her students to rethink their view of "up" and "down." Instead of seeing with a "habitual eye," she encouraged them to question the standard views of the world.
By the end of the semester, LaNasa had found the major for her.
"Anthropology draws on knowledge from a number of disciplines to study the whole of the human condition," says the Streetsboro resident. "As someone who wants to help people, I knew I first needed to understand different ways of seeing and reasoning the human experience. I've always been fascinated by observing people and wondering what it means to be human, I knew that I could study anthropology for the rest of my life and never get bored."
On Saturday, Aug. 11, she will graduate with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Anthropology summa cum laude at the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony. LaNasa, who has a 3.858 GPA, has been chosen to speak on behalf of the Summer 2012 Class as the student responder at the ceremony.
As LaNasa expanded her knowledge of the human experience throughout her years at UA, she applied it to a variety of research projects on campus and at the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron where she worked with other students and medical professionals.
Also active in UA organizations, LaNasa says she particularly enjoyed the opportunities on campus to attend poetry readings, music and theatre performances, and seminars — especially the Rethinking Race events. "This past year, I helped lead story circle discussions with the Color Line Project — a truly powerful experience that I will never forget."
She has been a volunteer with several local organizations, such as Project Homeless and Haven of Rest, and was part of a group that helped build houses in Juarez, Mexico.
LaNasa's honors include membership in the National Society for Collegiate Scholars, Phi Sigma Alpha and the Scholastic Honorary Society of the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded The University of Akron Presidential Scholarship as well as the Gibara Honors Scholarship Abroad, which made possible a just-completed summer exchange program at the University of Valladolid, in Valladolid, Spain, through the Department of Modern Languages Directed Spanish Study Abroad program.
"To be immersed in a new culture and language, to be surrounded by so much history, and to share life and food and conversation with the people there was like seeing the world through a new set of eyes," says LaNasa.
As for what is next, she will intern with a local social service agency for refugees and immigrants before starting graduate school and focusing on either cultural or medical anthropology.
"Although I'm not yet certain which area I will choose, I want to do applied anthropology, working toward solutions for the practical problems people face today," notes LaNasa. "I want to be involved in a community and to work toward real change."