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Hilary McKinney ’07

Reservation for One

By Donna Parker

Hilary McKinney ’07 works on the Tohono O’odham Indian reservation in Arizona and each day, she says she learns something new.

“It’s definitely an anthropologist’s dream to be here,” says this AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer.

Since graduating in May of last year, Hilary has been involved in this one-year program that has her working side by side with the elders of this 26,000 member tribe to learn their tribal legends and significance.

“A typical day would also involve working with the United Way or other non-profits to see what resources they’re willing to donate to the tribe; then, I merge that with the goals of the tribal organization.”

Hilary spends some of her spare time in the city of Tucson, which is 45 miles away, but she also stays close so she can attend the social activities on the reservation.

“There are dances on the reservation and concerts.  I also read a lot and try to keep up my Spanish.”

Hilary says Arturo Madrid, department of modern languages and literatures, “challenged me to think in ways I wasn’t accustomed to.”

And, Richard Reed, department of sociology and anthropology, “inspired me with his personal stories about being an anthropologist, leading me to want to go out and have those same experiences.”

She remains close with her Zeta Chi sisters and says those friends she made on campus “will be friends forever.”  Hilary laughingly calls her big sister Ellen Thompson ’06, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, “…an anthropology nerd, just like I am!”

But, she says, the simple truth is that Trinity fostered her thirst for adventure.

“Trinity really encourages you to be independent and seek out your own interests.  This environment made me much more confident in my overall abilities.”

“There are so many exciting opportunities out here.  In the next five years, I’d like to start work on my Ph.D. and then head to some place exotic, such as South America.  One day, I’d like to write a book about my experience as an anthropologist.”

“I think I’ll be sad to leave this reservation.   It’s been a great learning experience, but then again, I’ll be excited to get on to the next thing!”

You can contact Hilary at HilaryMcKinney@nsaie.org.