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Ursula James, Class of 2011

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In Vietnam, Anthropology Major Ursula James used her ability to speak French to help learn the local language and become immersed in the culture

First stop, Vietnam! Next stop, Las Vegas! Ursula James came to Southwestern ready to try new things. Little did she know that her sense of adventure would take her around the world - from a semester doing research in Vietnam to a post-graduation position with Teach for America in Las Vegas, Nev.

Considered by some to be unstoppable, Ursula was a swimmer who decided to try cross country and track, and was successful! She became involved and earned leadership positions in Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK) and in the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. Through SEAK, Ursula had the opportunity to help persuade University President Jake B. Schrum to sign the President’s Climate Commitment, bring the late Wangari Mathaai to campus, and work with the City of Georgetown to develop an agreement to provide wind energy for Southwestern.

An an anthropology major, Ursula had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam to work on her honors thesis–the first for the department in three years. While there, she used her ability to speak French to help learn the local language and become immersed in the culture.

Ursula believes that its small size is Southwestern’s greatest strength. “This is a community of learning, rather than a place of competition,” she says. “Everyone is valuable to the dynamic of the community.” The best piece of advice she received as a student was from Associate Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson, who suggested that sometimes you need to “walk away and come back … you’ll have a better perspective.”
Ursula is teaching 4th grade in Las Vegas while working on a master’s degree in elementary education. She continues to gain perspective by finding and writing down quotes. “It’s my thing,” she says.