Growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dr. Liz Olson knew she was interested in pursuing intercultural relations, however, it was not until her sophomore year in college that she found anthropology. After taking her first course, she switched her major and never looked back.
“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.”
Now, 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 Southern Utah University students to the community, such as a recent ethnobotany class designing and planting a native vegetation landscape and garden.
“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. 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.”
As an assistant professor of anthropology at SUU, Olson teaches the following classes:
ANTH 1010 Intro to Cultural Anthropology
ANTH 3070 Medical Anthropology
ANTH 3500 Ecological Anthropology
ANTH 3600 Cultures of Mexico
ANTH 3990 Anthropological Theory & Methods
ANTH 4700 Ethnobotany: Medicinal Herb Garden Practicum
ANTH 4700 Anthropology of Nutrition & Community
ANTH 4999 Senior Capstone
HIST 4830 Hispanic Heritage Week
Olson has more than 20 years of research experience in Mexico, which she brings into her classroom and helps her host events like Dia de los Muertos at SUU.
“I really enjoy teaching about the culture and environmental symbolism 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.”
Olson loves many things about SUU, including the new opportunities each semester to help students learn and serve the community.
“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.”