The Society for Economic Anthropology is pleased to invite you to Mentoring the Mentors, a virtual round table discussion about mentorship in anthropology for a changing economic context.

As more and more anthropology graduate students and recent graduates seek advice around pivoting toward alt-ac and non-academic jobs, it’s not just students who are seeking guidance in this brave new world. It’s the mentors. This round table discussion will offer insights, guidance, and strategies for mentors of graduate students seeking to better support their students and better prepare them for navigating career paths beyond or adjacent to academic anthropology.

The panel is composed of three faculty members with a strong track record of mentoring students to enter non-academic anthropological work and two graduates who have been successful in applied anthropology careers.

Please note that this panel is open to non-SEA members and all of course welcome as this conversation clearly transcends economic anthropology. In addition to mentors, we believe this discussion will offer useful insights for graduate student mentees, mentors of undergraduates, and anyone thinking about the future of anthropology. You can find more information about the panel and the panelists below. More information about accessing the virtual panel will be in the AAA Program.

Please direct any questions to Emma McDonell ( or (Cindy Isenhour (

We hope to see many of you there.

Mentoring the Mentors

Friday, November 19
12:15-2:00 ET (virtual)

Historically, academia has paid little attention to mentorship. How does one learn to mentor grad students? What does it mean to be a good mentor? Most mentors of grad students have had no training in mentorship per se, and were themselves trained in a radically different job market context. At the same time, most grad student mentors have followed an academic career track, giving them skills to advise students in how to pursue academic jobs but little experience or knowledge about how to use an anthropology degree outside this sector. Over the past few years, the number of events and even businesses (e.g. Beyond the Professoriate) intended to help graduate students navigate transitions away from academia has ballooned, demonstrating a marked interest and need for helping graduate students learn how to apply anthropological skillsets beyond academic anthropology.

This event differs in its focus not on the students considering non-academic careers but on the mentors who work with those students. As more and more grad students seek guidance with pivoting toward alt-ac and non-academic jobs and the job market context shifts dramatically, it’s not just students who are seeking guidance in this brave new world. It’s the mentors. This roundtable

discussion will offer insights, guidance, and strategies for mentors of graduate students seeking to better equip the students they work with to confront shifting challenges brought about by the neoliberalization of the academy, increasing precarity of academic and teaching labor, a global pandemic that has brought about major changes to how we work. While addressing challenges, the event will be constructive aiming to discuss both challenges and emerging opportunities for trained anthropologists outside academic contexts. This event is the first in a new series and longer conversation SEA is developing to ensure that mentors have up-to-date understandings, skills, networks, and strategies to best address changing graduate student needs.

Our panel is composed of three faculty members with a strong track record of mentoring students to enter non-academic anthropological work and two graduates who have been successful in applied anthropology careers.

Panelist Biographies

Mayra S. Cerda has been involved in the fields of social and economic justice, education, asset development, financial literacy, and immigrant entrepreneurship for over a decade. In 2011, Mayra worked as a researcher for the Financial Health Network, NYU and Bankable Frontier on a national and two-year study called “US Financial Diaries.” She also conducted research for the University of Washington to understand Opportun’s (formerly known as Progreso Financiero) financial practices and its customers. In 2013, she joined Opportunity Fund to manage two asset-building programs for low-income college students and single mothers. She also played a key role in Washington, D.C. where she supported the federal funding for two major community-based approaches that help low-income individuals move toward greater self-sufficiency. Currently, she manages a program at a local non-profit in Silicon Valley, lectures at DeAnza College and San Jose University (SJSU), and serves as a School Site Council Member at a local South San Jose elementary school. Mayra holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and a Minor in Asian Studies, and an M.A. in Applied Anthropology from SJSU.

A.J. Faas is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Organizational Studies Program at San José State University, where he also serves as Graduate Coordinator for the MA Program in Applied Anthropology and faculty fellow in the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center. His research interests center on disasters and environmental crises, with attention to cooperation, reciprocity, and mutual aid; postcolonialism and the anthropology of the state; interventions of nongovernmental organizations; and the (re)production of subjectivities and memories in the wake of catastrophes. In addition to training students for careers in both practicing anthropology and scholarship, Faas consults organizations in the nonprofit and public sectors on disaster prevention, response, and recovery, and develops partnerships with community-based organizations for disaster risk reduction and preparedness. He is the author of the forthcoming book, In the Shadow of Tungurahua: Disaster Politics in Highland Ecuador.

Jeffrey Greger has spent over a decade in Silicon Valley working as a user experience (UX) researcher and industrial designer, developing products with banking, consumer electronics, and medical device companies. He is currently a design strategist at the small startup Percapita Group, LLC. where he researches and develops services to meet the needs of financially underserved communities. Working in the financial industry, Jeff regularly applies insights from his academic research which explores the challenges, opportunities, and ethical issues ethnographers and design professionals encounter when they create financial services for and with low-income communities in the U.S. and around the world. Jeff received an M.A. in Applied Anthropology from San José State University in 2019.

Riall Nolan is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Purdue University, where he was also Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs from 2003-2009. Nolan received his doctorate in Social Anthropology from Sussex University in 1975, and worked as a development anthropologist in North and West Africa, South Asia, and the Southwest Pacific until the mid-1980s. He subsequently directed international programs at a number of US universities, including the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Cincinnati, before coming to Purdue in 2003. At Purdue, he taught courses in applied anthropology, design, and cross-cultural adaptation. Until 2020, he was also an Affiliated Lecturer at the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, where he taught an MPhil course in development anthropology. He is the author of eight academic books, including Development Anthropology (Westview Press 2001), The Handbook of Practicing Anthropology (Wiley/Blackwell, 2013), and Using Anthropology in the World (Routledge 2017). He has published nearly forty articles, including “Anthropology and Development,” in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology (Oxford University Press 2019). He has also published a guide to mountaineering in Papua New Guinea, and four adventure novels. In his spare time he writes, hikes, makes furniture, and visits his Bassari friends in Senegal.

Micah Trapp is an Associate Professor at the University of Memphis, where she serves as the coordinator for the graduate program in Applied Anthropology. Her scholarship contributes to research, theory, and application in the areas of humanitarian and federal food aid, the anthropology of food and taste, economic anthropology and household food economies, and food policy. Trapp is currently writing up her fieldwork on federal school food entitlements and the National School Lunch Program. As a practicing anthropologist, Trapp has worked for two refugee resettlement agencies in the United States and have also worked on a U.S. Agency for International Development evaluation team. Trapp received her M.A. in Public Anthropology and PhD in Anthropology from American University.

Emma McDonell, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, will moderate the discussion.