Yttrium Sua '15

Me taking a photo with an elderly woman of the Rukai tribe that I interviewed during my sophomore year summer independent research project in Taiwan.

Yttrium Sua ‘15
Major: Anthropology & Environmental Analysis
Minor: Asian Studies

I admit I took my introduction to anthropology class with rudimentary knowledge about the field – I knew it was about studying cultures and people, but that was about it. However, majoring in anthropology has made me realize that anthropology goes beyond that. Perhaps the most common perception of anthropology is that of the anthropologist embarking on an adventurous journey to a “third world” country, spending months with “the natives” and returning to tell the tales. That might be what it might have started out as, but anthropology is a constantly evolving field and what the discipline was a decade ago is vastly different from what it is today.

At Pomona College, I was given the opportunity to conduct independent research with indigenous Taiwanese in Taiwan to investigate how their lives have been impacted by environmental change, honing my skills as a researcher. The interdisciplinary nature of anthropology also meant that I could easily complement it with my other major.  Through close interactions with the faculty, I had the privilege of receiving individual mentorship for my research and college career. I was also able to capitalize on the resources of the 5 Colleges, taking anthropology classes with other inspiring professors at Scripps and Pitzer College. As there is no required thesis for anthropology majors at Pomona College, I was able to focus my energy on other aspects of anthropology that interested me, including fieldwork projects and apprenticeship with professors.

I chose to major in anthropology as it changed the way I look at life, at society, and at people, helping me make sense of the world through studying others. There are 7 billion people on Earth, all with lives uniquely different from each other. Needless to say, the knowledge that can be gleaned from these different stories is immense. That essentially is what anthropology aims to do – making sense of the human experience. Post-graduation, I will be working as an urban planner in Singapore, with the hope of using my anthropological knowledge to make the city a more sustainable and livable place for people to call their home.

Staying with and visiting 10 Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan, Yttrium studied the effect of land use policies on the tribes’ culture and the environment.