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‘Only a fraction of your education takes place in a classroom’

David Kujawa made the most of his opportunities to customize his anthropology education

Thursday Jul 17, 2014

Anthropology is a discipline that requires some creativity and drive for students to realize its full potential. Unlike some degrees, which provide training for a specific type of job, it takes some ingenuity for an anthropology major to carve out the right career. For many, this is precisely what these students love most about the field.

This is certainly true for David Kujawa. The 24-year-old from Griffith who recently graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a certificate in public health.

“Anthropology allowed me to let my curiosity run wild and also gives me knowledge and skills to help people,” Kujawa said.

Kujawa is an example of what can happen when one uses opportunities to the fullest. Awards, presentations, research, internships, and even a recently launched consulting business, pepper his resume. He attributes much of this to the power of networking and not being afraid to take chances.

“Only a fraction of your education will take place in a classroom,” Kujawa said. “If you are able to go to conferences or meetings, whether undergraduate or professional, do so, because they are a great way to network and you will learn about all kinds of different ideas that you will never hear in the classroom.”

Kujawa said networking has gotten him jobs, helped him do better in classes and allowed him to become involved in projects he is passionate about, but might never have heard of otherwise.

“IU Northwest abounds with opportunities for students, whether that means involvement with clubs or internships,” Kujawa said. “All the student has to do is be willing to put themselves out there and look for them.”

From mosquitoes to shipwrecks to cooking, Kujawa’s research projects have been diverse to say the least.

Kujawa spent a summer researching a Lake Michigan shipwreck and presented his findings at research conferences at IU Northwest and Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI). He participated in the IU South Bend-sponsored excavation of one of the first two synagogues built in the city, as well as the lot of a pharmacy built in the 1900s.

Under Kevin McElmurry, Ph.D., he examined the relationship between an individual’s knowledge of a particular task, in this case cooking, and the individual’s share of the labor distribution for that task in a couple. The research showed that the share of the labor an individual is responsible for is directly correlated with how much the individual knows about the task, regardless of gender. Kujawa presented the results at research conferences at both IU Northwest and IU South Bend.

And, an internship with the Indiana State Department of Health yielded a unique opportunity to conduct West Nile Virus surveillance. Kujawa captured female mosquitos and counted and identified them before sending them to the state lab for testing.

Kujawa is also a young entrepreneur.

He and fellow May grad, Sydney Osborn, have recently started a research consulting business called the Northwest Regional Research Group. Their goal is to provide local non-profits and businesses with the specialized support they require when carrying out projects such as program evaluations, community need assessments, and other similar projects.

“Sydney and I use the methods, theories, and skills we learned while studying anthropology at IU Northwest to provide these services to the community while also increasing the public’s understanding of anthropology and other social sciences as well as the caliber of the programs at IU Northwest.”

Kujawa plans to attend graduate school for anthropology with a focus on medical anthropology and public health. Ultimately, he would like to teach at the university level and continue pursuing his research interests or work with public health agencies.

“In order to succeed you need to go beyond simply showing up to class,” Kujawa said. “If you want to be successful you need to be involved on and off campus as much as your time permits. No one has ever failed at achieving their goals because they took every opportunity to pursue them.”

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