Rachel Gravens ’18: A heart for community

Rachel Gravens '18

Rachel Gravens ’18

Rachel Gravens ’18 is a double major in anthropology of health, and studio art with a concentration in ceramics. Her minor is environmental sustainability. She completed internships with Big Car Collaborative and Mad Farmers Collective, and traveled to Texas as part of the cultural anthropology team that accompanied the University of Indianapolis Forensics Team for the Beyond Borders project.

Q. What are your plans after graduation?

A. I plan to work in the nonprofit sector with organizations that promote the arts for community building and development. I am also interested in the food system and would love to be involved with organizations in that sphere as well. Eventually I plan to enroll in a graduate program. During this time I would like to continue to work and develop as a ceramics artist, and I hope to one day have my own studio and be able to teach classes.

Q. How did your work on the Beyond Borders project help prepare you for your future career?

A. My time in Texas and the subsequent research, analysis, and presentations had a number of positive effects on my academic development. This was my first experience “in the field” as an anthropology student. I got to experience traveling to another place, observing and participating with a number of groups and organizations, taking jottings, and writing up field notes at the end of each day. I loved the whole process and it has further established my love for anthropology and what we do. I also enjoyed coding the notes and forming a poster to present to different audiences. It was exciting to share my experience and what I learned, as well as demonstrate the value of anthropological work to other students, faculty, and UIndy donors.

In addition, the trip had very personal impact on me, as I saw firsthand the reality of mass migrant deaths at our border. I was convinced of the fact that this is a humanitarian crisis and that real change must take place. This requires raising awareness so that people are cognizant of this tragedy and inspired to take action. My experience in south Texas motivates me to share what I know and encourage others to educate themselves about the reality of the situation.

As a double major with a minor, I have been able to take a wide variety of classes that have each shaped my college experience and who I am. Art has pushed me to work hard, problem solve, think creatively, believe in my abilities, and take pride in my craftsmanship and accomplishments. In anthropology I have grown in my ability to think critically and to see and evaluate the world in new ways. Anthropology has also helped be to develop as a writer and speaker. Environmental sustainability has incorporated my love for nature in my studies, and helped me to draw connections between our human actions and our environment. All of these skills and lessons will be carried with me into my professional life and continue to help me grow and be successful.  

Slideshow: Meet the Class of 2018!

Q. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities as a student?

A. My freshman year I participated in intramural volleyball and it was a great way to make friends and take a break from school work. I was also very active in Circle K, which is a volunteer group on campus. I was also a member of the Art and Design Student Association (ADSA). I was very active in my junior year and helped to plan and run events. The art department is full of wonderful people with a lot of great ideas, and I loved being able to work with them to make exciting things happen on campus.

My junior year I was an intern at Big Car Collaborative, an art and place-making organization in the Garfield Park neighborhood. Working with such fun and creative people who use art as a tool for development and community building in their neighborhood is part of what has inspired me to work with similar nonprofits in my career. More recently, I was an intern for the Mad Farmers Collective. I helped with the day-to-day tasks on the farm and learned about the operations of an urban farm working to improve their community. Because of my love for the outdoors, gardening, and the food system I really enjoyed this opportunity and learned so much. In addition I have been a tutor in the Math Lab on campus, assisting students with introductory math courses and statistics.

Q. Were there any faculty, staff or fellow students who helped you during your time as a student at UIndy? 

A. The Art and Design department is a very supportive network of faculty and students. The students are a great encouragement to each other and the professors pour a lot into the development and well-being of their students.

Katherine Fries has been a wonderful force in the department and I am thankful for her enthusiasm and direction during my foundational art classes at UIndy. She has also pushed to make the students more involved in the department and has helped to facilitate some great events.

Barry Barnes has been my advisor and professor in ceramics and his belief in me has been amazing. He encouraged me from the very beginning to stick with ceramics and has admired my hard work, creativity, and dedication to ceramics.

Additionally, Dr. Alyson O’Daniel has been a big influence on my college career. She’s always been willing to talk things over with me, including my options and next steps after college. Her dynamic courses have challenged me and her support has been extremely helpful. Through her courses I have come to have a much better understanding of and love for anthropology. She also invited me to be her research assistant for the migrant death project and I am so thankful for that opportunity.

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