Student Spotlight: Ava Gustafson C’20

Ava Gustafson C’20

  • Major: Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Major: Anthropology
  • Launch Career Communities:  Social Impact, Education, Law & Government
  • Launch Identity/Affinity Communities: Visible/Invisible Disabilities and Gender and Sexuality
  • Clubs: Democratic Socialist and Feminist Intersection
  • On-Campus Jobs: Resident Assistant, Writing Fellow for Women’s and Gender Studies 101, Tutor, Writing Specialist, and Peer Academic Coach for the Center for Academic Excellence

What attracted you to Drew? Did you know what you wanted to major in your first year?

I was attracted to Drew University because of its diversity and the variety of programs it offered. I knew I could explore different options for my future. I started in neuroscience, but I quickly found my passion for Women’s and Gender Studies after taking a Drew Seminar (DSEM) with Dr. Wendy Kolmar called “Growing Up Gendered.” I also found my passion for Anthropology, because I believe its methods and theories allow for a deeper understanding of the human condition and all of its complexities.

What is it about Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies that draws you to them?

Women’s and Gender Studies uses theory and historical events to better understand the ways in which we socially construct our environments. Anthropology provides a fantastic way in which to study humanity, through ethnographic research where the focus is on the people being researched and an understanding of their experiences. By combining both majors, I feel that an effective method of research and understanding of humanity and individual cultures is achieved.

Along with your position as a Resident Assistant and your on-campus tutoring, do you have any internships or jobs off campus?

Yes, I have an internship as a substitute paraprofessional and behavioral therapist at my local elementary school in Redding, CT. I assist students with special needs and/or learning disabilities. I also facilitate the students’ social interactions between peers and other educators. I also work at a small bubble tea café in downtown Madison called Aloha Bubble.

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

My mentor is Dr. Wendy Kolmar who has supported me since I took her DSEM class in my first year at Drew. Prof. Kolmar has helped me articulate my passions and is currently heading my thesis committee providing me much support as I wrap up my four years at Drew.

Do you have any hobbies or interests you would like to share?

In my free time I love to paint, draw, knit, sew, and embroider! I also love to play video games and read fantasy novels!

What is the issue(s) in the world that you are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about the treatment of children with disabilities, especially in the education system.

What are some of your favorite memories of Drew over the last 4 years?

Some of my favorite memories involve being with my friends in the Commons or EC. Eating together helps me to process my day. These campus hubs really allow for relaxed socializing.

What are your career goals and where do you hope to be in 5 years?

In 5 years I hope to be completing my Ph.D in Anthropology and seeking work at a University like Drew.  I would also love to conduct ethnographic research in special education classrooms.

What advice would you give first-year students?

Put yourself out there! Go to club and campus events! Talk to people! Be passionate and don’t be afraid to speak out! Your voice is important and needs to be heard.

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