Alumna Credits Duchesne for Inspiring Her Drive to Promote Social Justice

Alumna Credits Duchesne for Inspiring Her Drive to Promote Social Justice

Samantha Archer '09 is Striving to Make the World a Better Place Through Science.

"At Duchesne, and in my early years of college, it was always pretty clear that my interests were heavily weighted towards subjects like history, English, theater, and foreign languages. The sciences were not really my thing," recalled Samantha Archer '09, who is now a doctoral student in Biological Anthropology at the University of Texas.

The change of heart occurred after she took a course called Anthropological Genetics to fulfill a credit requirement as an undergrad. Right then and there, she knew that science was what she wanted to spend the rest of her life studying. The course taught her hands-on lab skills and how to analyze genetic data, but it also awakened in her a desire to use her studies to advance research and to advocate for social justice, a passion that she credits Duchesne for instilling in her.

"It isn't lost on me that because of Duchesne's curriculum, social justice has been an integral part of my education since I was barely four years old," Archer said. "I know that I would still care about it had I not gone to Duchesne, but it's so natural for me to insist that it be a main focus, largely because it always has been."

Now, her focus and scholarship are split between the two fields. One is science studies, which looks at social norms and how politics influence science, and the other is a relatively new field called anthropological genetics/epigenetics, which examines the genetics behind health disparities. For example, African Americans are sometimes twice as susceptible to certain diseases as compared to white Americans.

She studies these fields simultaneously as science doesn't always have the tools to look at the broader picture of how these disparities come to be in the first place, allowing her to rethink and analyze how these questions have been posed by scientists in the past and how to improve upon them so there is a more accurate understandings of what's really occurring.

"I see my research as science for social justice because the working hypothesis is that the health differences we are seeing are overwhelmingly due to how people are treated in society, oftentimes because of their race, class, or where they grew up," she added. "I identify as both an academic and an activist, and I cannot see it being any other way."

This August, Archer will move to Connecticut, following her Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Deborah Bolnick, who has accepted a faculty position at the University of Connecticut. After completing her doctorate at UConn, Archer hopes to become a professor and split her time between research, teaching, and collaborative projects with medical, public health, and social services organizations.

She will always value her time at Duchesne and fondly remembers her experiences there. "It's difficult to pick and choose memories from the 14 years I spent at Duchesne," she said. "Most of the moments that stand out involve my friends, and the incredible teachers, whose lessons still get me through tough spots to this day. I still think about the theses I wrote as a junior for Mr. Horne and as a senior for Sr. Karam when I'm writing papers in my graduate classes. I still long for things like Goûter and Congé. Duchesne was a really special place to grow up."