Dr. Liz Olson's main area of focus is in ethnobiology and ethnobotany--how people use plants. She has used her research expertise in local projects that connect our students to the community, such as her recent class on ethnobotany at the Frontier Homestead State Park where anthropology students designed and planted a native vegetation landscape and garden. Dr. Olson has more than 20 years of research experience in Mexico, which she brings into her classroom where she teaches about the cultural heritage of Mexico.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Department of History, Sociology, and Anthropology
How long have you been working at SUU?
Where did you attend college and what did you study?
-Bachelor’s in Anthropology at University of Utah (honors)
-Master’s in Medical Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University
-Doctorate in Medical Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University
Where did you grow up?
When and how did you decide what you wanted your career to be?
I knew I was interested in intercultural relations when I was in high school, however it was not until my sophomore year in college that I took my first anthropology course and was hooked! I switched my major and never looked back.
What do you feel is the most interesting thing about your field?
Anthropology is a very diverse discipline. There are so many ways that we can use an anthropological approach to study a problem. For example, I work in ethnobiology and ethnobotany–how people use plants. In particular, I study Indigenous medicinal plant knowledge and the ways that globalization impacts and shapes knowledge about plants. I think it is remarkable how important traditional cultural knowledge is and how much so-called “old” knowledge is able to do to help solve our contemporary problems.
Why do you love anthropology?
I love that Anthropology doesn’t limit us to particular paradigms or frameworks. We are holistic–and that means we draw on many fields and disciplines that may be relevant to a particular problem or circumstance.
What has been your proudest moment working at SUU?
For the last two years, I co-hosted an event on Dia de los Muertos and the events have been huge successes. I really enjoy teaching about the culture and environmental symbolisms related to Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. In 2016 I brought my dear friends (Los Hermanos Aldaco) from Mexico to sing on our campus as part of the celebration and their performance helped us include Hispanic members of the Cedar City community.
What is one thing you wish to tell every student in your class?
Read. You want to get ahead, to succeed, to get good grades? Learn to love reading. Reading is what truly opens us up to knowledge.
What do you love about SUU?
I love a lot of things about SUU! I love the hard-working students who are curious about the world around them and want to learn and serve. I love the small classes and the opportunities to get to know my students. I love that we have a beautiful campus where we are surrounded by amazing, world-class arts and theater. And I love the town of Cedar City. It is a beautiful place to live.