University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Contact Us:

Cheryl Ajirotutu
Associate Professor
Dept. of Anthropology &
Associate Director
Cultures & Communities Prog.
Phone: 414-229-2298/
Fax: 414-229-5848
Please place "New Orleans" in Subject Box

Monique Hassman
Project Assistant
Phone: 414-229-1159

Student Voices


To what extent and how has the course benefited you?

From an academic standpoint, this course has greatly benefited me to the extent that I have gained hands-on experience conducting anthropological research in a unique, cultural environment. I have also gained interview experience, both leading the questioning and handling the equipment. From a personal standpoint, I have benefited to the extent that I now have a greater understanding and appreciation for the cultural diversity and environmental inequalities that face society. I have heard amazing stories of bravery and perseverance that will continue to echo in my mind for time to come.

This residency course has provided me with an opportunity unparalleled in any classroom experience, as it has transcended the comfortable box of the university setting, and has thrown us out into the real world. This trip not only has intensely taught me about real world applications of anthropological (micro-sociological) research methods, but has also taught me about resiliency, the process of healing, the value of diversity, and the meaning of community and culture from the residents, students, and teachers of the Lower 9th Ward.

This course has benefitted me in many areas. First, leaving the abstraction of the classroom for more applied study was extremely invaluable, as I have spent the past 23 years of my education practicing hypothetical situations in a square box. This class allowed me to really experience the pragmatic affects of my acquired knowledge. Second, learning specific skills, such as field notes and interview tactics, was a pleasant experience coming from a largely theoretical based major. This class was one of the few from which I left with a definable set of skills. Last, the intensity that comes with being in a group setting with many motivated minds working together on a similar project-waking up every morning to do something new- is very stimulating. I feel I gained more from a single Winterim class than I have from entire semesters.


To what extent and how do you feel the course helps in making progress toward your degree?

I think a student can work on any degree and find something that applies to coming from this course.

You can only learn so much in a classroom. This course gives you hands-on experience, which is more valuable than a book. You learn your limits and a lot about what you can actually offer.

The UW Winterim in New Orleans had several promising prospects; I wanted to learn more about the effects of hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans residents, I wanted to travel somewhere new within the U.S., and I could hone my practices as an anthropologist. With the promises of interviews with residents, living in the center of a culturally unique city, and getting to learn about hardships and recovery; I couldn’t refuse the opportunity.

I arrived in New Orleans with the intent to study the psychological effects of a natural disaster, and particularly of how the hurricanes of the summer of 2005 are affecting the Lower 9th Ward community, a historically marginalized group in society. As time passed, my research focus shifted to something that is much more prominent within the lives of people displaced by the storm, and especially of those that are trying to return and re-establish their lives again.


To what extent and how do you feel the course will prepare you for the future?

Beyond giving me a wider lens through which to view the world, this course has given me much cultural capital, which will surely directly influence me in the future, regardless of what direction it takes. As a human being, it was an enriching experience in general, as I realized that I was given more than I gave. I listened more than I talked, and I learned more than I served.

One of my favorite aspects of the course was that I could be immersed into a new culture right here in the U.S., I had heard about how special and almost foreign New Orleans could be and I was excited to have the chance to experience it firsthand.  I have never had Cajun style cooking or experienced real jazz music so I was novice and excited.  I took up the opportunity as soon as I could and watched as many documentaries as I had time for to have some background knowledge before departure.  I learned about the segregation and discrimination, the difficulties people were having returning and rebuilding and the strength of those determined to return.  I sought out to learn more about Katrina directly from those affected and to understand why they would return to a place so disaster ridden and economically strained.

What advice would you give to a student considering taking this course?

Just to take this course! Take it and embrace it. Try everything, and don't not do something you are even the smallest bit interested in. Talk to locals and listen even more. Write field notes daily so that perceptions are not lost with time.

I would tell them to come with an open mind, ready to experience a completely different culture. I would advise them to try as much food as they could eat, and go and hear as much music as they possibly could. I would also tell them not to be afraid to dance.

Advice I would give to a student taking this course is definitely to be open to trying new foods. This trip is about experiencing all the cultures of New Orleans. Not only experiencing the language and history of all those cultures, but the food as well. Also, be prepared to be overwhelmed not only with information but emotion.

What in your opinion are the benefits of participating in a course that requires a residency outside of Wisconsin?

A course outside of your home, and possibly comfort, zone will allow you, as simple as it sounds, to see everything in a new light. Being thrown into a group where the student does not know any other student, and then must interact with them, is a skill to be learned and one that will have a great ending result. The level of emotional interest and experience is greater when the unknown is conquered. Working while in residency here, allows one to see the true culture of a place, instead of just reading it from a book. Local food, sights, and people reinforce the studies. Overall, I think being out of Wisconsin makes for the most honest and realistic type of course.

I have learned more things in this class than in any class I have ever taken in my entire life. This residency course has provided me with opportunity unparalleled in any classroom experience, as it has transcended the comfortable box of the university setting, and has thrown us out into the real world.

My experiences in New Orleans have been unforgettable.  Each day I was able to witness or participate in a cultural activity that many residents are exposed to every day.