U.S. Air Force veteran Alana Zautner was an air traffic controller prior to her life as a student at UW Tacoma. She believed her path had been set: “I always thought I’d be an air traffic controller. The pay’s not bad and it was my niche.”
She found her way to Washington from San Diego through Joint Base Lewis-McChord. While stationed at JBLM, her family grew and she found herself wanting to spend more time with her then-one-year-old son. She decided it was time to return to school.
With some transfer credits under her belt, Alana began the hunt for a university. “I really liked the urban aspect and how the campus is knit into the fabric of the downtown core,” she recalls of her first visit to UW Tacoma. The class size and student-to-professor ratio also seemed promising. It appeared small and intimate; a place to get to know people easily. “It really strengthens the quality of your education when you have access to your teachers.”
From her very first class hours, Alana knew she had made the right decision. But it wasn’t until after her first year as a global honors student that her future became clear. “I found that I loved to read and write and do research. I realized I had questions about everything. And the more focused I became, the more answers I would find.” Alana had budding interests in several subjects before her time as a student—like feminism and film and anthropology (which, she confesses, she didn’t realize had a name before UW Tacoma)—but her coursework and interdisciplinary approach gave her a strong foundation for her views. “The interest had always been there, but my classes helped me to examine it.”
More than anything, her role as a mother inspired her global honors capstone project, in which she examined gender roles in children’s films. She became alarmed when she noticed her children acting out what they had seen in the movies, and wanted to find media sources that didn’t convey such strict precepts of what it meant to be a valuable man or woman. She sought a “more well-rounded message,” that taught children that it takes much more than appearances to earn respect.
Now that her capstone is finished, and she will soon have her bachelor’s degree in hand, Alana is lining up plans for the future. Starting in the fall, she will begin a Master’s program at England’s Oxford University studying anthropology. And after that? “Ideally,” she says, “I will return and apply to a Ph.D. program in biocultural anthropology. And maybe I can come back and teach here someday.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org