Nathan Brown ’22 is no stranger to the path less traveled.
In the literal sense, Nathan is captain of the varsity cross country team (which he walked on to as a first-year!), and his feet have led him through city streets, muddy fields, and dense forests across the nation. In fact, he recently completed a run from the Alamo to the farthest of the Spanish missions, a path that continues to solidify his love for the City of San Antonio and the history within it.
In the figurative sense, Nathan has taken academic paths that have led him to discoveries about his fields of study and about himself. Like many Trinity students, Nathan came to the University to pursue a degree in business. Given his family involvement in business ventures, it felt like the natural path. But an interdisciplinary foray into a Pathways curriculum course in anthropology caused him to change course, almost completely.
He credits a presentation given by Lapétra Bowman, director of Academic Advising, with inspiring a “leap of faith” away from his business major and into anthropology: “What I took away from her presentation is that I should take classes in a major that really excite me.” And what really excited him? An anthropology course taught by anthropology professor and chair of Trinity’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Jennifer Mathews, Ph.D.
Nathan asserts that none of his discoveries would have been possible without the support and guidance of Mathews, who also became his faculty adviser. “Dr. Mathews has been a very important part of my experience at Trinity. She and I have had a lot of great conversations over the last few years talking through the trauma and the troubles with archeology as a discipline,” Nathan says. “She has been a really strong adviser for me and a really helpful presence in being very empathetic and understanding—she’s gone through the same ethical questions in her head, and she has come to similar conclusions in the way that she operates as an archeologist.”
Nathan Brown stands with his academic adviser, anthropology professor Jennifer Mathews, in the sociology and anthropology lab.
As Nathan’s path at Trinity unwinds toward the commencement stage, he reflects on all of the additional facets he encountered along the way. He participates in social justice movements for Indigenous peoples. He created his own internship with the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (and learned more about his own path, too). He’s active in RUF, the Reformed University Fellowship Christian organization. He’s the epitome of a servant leader, and he received the Henry Parker II Scholarship for Outstanding Christian Leadership his sophomore year in recognition for being so. And he’s figured out how to combine his initial interest in business with museum studies and anthropology by pursuing minors in the first two subjects and a major in the last.
Nathan says all of it—his academic studies, his co-curricular activities, and his community involvement—is to “make Trinity, and San Antonio, and the world, a better place.”
A Better Place
Nathan has worked toward making Trinity a better place through contributing to a land acknowledgement statement for the University. This statement, still being drafted and reviewed by the University, recognizes Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of the land on which Trinity’s campus sits. “Before I graduate, I want to create a lasting impact on the University, and the land acknowledgement is a good start,” Nathan says, “but it’s not the end goal. The end goal would be to contribute to equitable policies such as scholarships, cultural arts, and lecture programming that benefit Indigenous students and San Antonio—also called Yanaguana—as a Native city.”
With that, Nathan has worked toward making San Antonio a better place through a summer internship, made possible by a John Donahue Student Award, with the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AIT-SCM). Beginning his internship in the summer of 2021, Nathan had his career aspirations set on being an archeologist. Yet a conversation with a spiritual leader in the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan nation in San Antonio challenged Nathan’s assumptions entirely, leading him to shift his career focus toward repatriation, ensuring museums’ artifacts get back to their rightful owners (enter his museum studies minor). “The internship opened my eyes to historical exploitation and still-present anger by many Indigenous people at archeologists for excavating and desecrating human remains and ceremonial objects,” Nathan says.
Through an internship made possible by a John Donahue Student Award, Nathan Brown worked with the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AIT-SCM).
And Nathan has worked toward making the world a better place by channeling what he learned in his internship to apply it to society around him. “Sociology and anthropology majors here are very social justice-oriented, and it’s exhibited in the issues that we speak up about and the organizations we get involved with,” Nathan says. “It’s hard to separate life outside Trinity because there’s so much interconnection and intersectionality, and my classes and my internship have shaped the conversations I have and the issues I care about.”
Wherever Nathan’s path takes him next, he will walk it with an interdisciplinary liberal arts background that fuels his steps. “In business and in museum studies, there are really important learnings that I can take into my career,” he says. “I’ll be able to show that I can use my knowledge to benefit the people that I’m trying to work with or give back to.”