It was fall of her senior year, and Catherine Bolten was feeling good. She had just returned from a summer-long research trip to Botswana and was inspired and confident—for the first time in her life, Bolten knew what she wanted to do.
“I marched into my professor’s office and said, ‘I want to go to graduate school in anthropology.’ He said, ‘That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do. You’ll spend the best of years of your twenties in school, you’ll come out at the end broke and probably won’t get a job.’ I said, ‘But I still want to do it. I can’t imagine not being an anthropologist.’”
Flash forward fifteen years, and Bolten is an anthropology professor at Notre Dame. Her work has spanned both the professional and academic arenas and has taken her around the world, most notably Southern and Western Africa. Bolten’s research has focused on the cultural ramifications of Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war.
I caught up with Bolten at Notre Dame to learn about life as an anthropologist and hear more about her winding road into academia.