STELLAR Student profile: Alexandra Taitt

When Alexandra Taitt began her college career at SIUE, she knew she wanted to major in anthropology.

Alexandra Taitt was named to the STELLAR Student award list for 2014. Photo courtesy of Taitt

She was named to the 2014 STELLAR Student award list, and said she felt honored.

Taitt said she would not be where she is today without her professors and fellow students.

“When I started at SIUE, I had general ideas of what I wanted to do, but not a lot of focus,” Taitt said. ”It wasn’t until I began growing close to some of my professors that I really discovered my true passion. That’s the great thing about SIUE. Students have the ability to create strong relationships with faculty, and they are so supportive of each student’s endeavors.”

She added that it also helps having such a great group of students in the program.

“When you see everyone accomplish such great things in the program, it’s hard not to be inspired to follow your dreams.” Taitt said.

According to Taitt, faculty members in the anthropology department have been supportive, and she mentioned anthropology professors Cory Willmott and Aminata Cairo who served as mentors.

“Everything about anthropology interested me: from forensics to evolution to different languages and cultures,” Taitt said. “It encompassed everything I was fascinated about.”

According to Taitt, computer science came along during her first semester.

“I was very strong in math and science, and I wanted to keep my skills fresh,” Taitt said. “At first I thought I would major in mathematics, but I decided that computer science would be an interesting discipline to explore.”

She explained the opportunity to conduct research related to both fields first sprang up after working closely with two professors: anthropology professor Cory Willmott and English professor Dr. Kristine Hildebrandt.”

According to Taitt, she was doing language analysis work with Hildebrandt, and when the National Science Foundation opportunity came about, Dr. Willmott introduced her to the idea of working with the Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes region.

“In general, I had a strong interest in different languages, and was eager to have the chance to work with language preservation projects,” Taitt said.

Taitt said she really hopes to find a career path where she can blend both anthropology and computer science.

“I have had great opportunities so far with the integration of both, and I hope to keep up this streak. In all honesty, having a job that I am excited to wake up for everyday is my biggest goal.” Taitt said. “I know it’s cliché, but I’ve been lucky enough so far to get a taste of that, and I’d like to keep it going.”

Besides being named a STELLAR Student, she is also president of the Anthropology Club, outstanding student in anthropology, and involved in various internships, projects and volunteer work.

“I honestly just admire anyone who is following their passion and doing what they love,” Taitt said. “I believe it takes a certain bit of courage to make sacrifices to follow your dreams.”

One of the overwhelming challenges, according to Taitt, is the general low demand for cultural anthropologists.

“The jobs [for cultural anthropologists] just aren’t always there, which is on the other end of the spectrum from computer science, where programmers are in high demand,” Taitt said. “I’m hoping with both skill sets, I will be able to find a niche that fits my goals perfectly.”

Taitt acknowledges that there are many social and cultural issues going on locally, nationally and globally.

“I know I can’t tackle the world, but I believe any small contribution will have an important impact somewhere along the line.” Taitt said.

“I hope to use technology to enhance and amplify anthropological methods in solving some of these issues,” Taitt said. “Whether these be language or culture preservation tools, applications for transmitting or documenting information, or aiding in repatriation efforts, this mixture of computer science and anthropology will be an invaluable tool.”

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