Graduating senior inspires a humanist perspective

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Courtesy Chelsea Elizabeth Forer | The Daily Wildcat

Chelsea Forer, this year’s outstanding senior in the College of Humanities, is “inspiring both students and faculty” at the University of Arizona with her academic achievements.

“It is nice to be able to acknowledge a student who is not only intellectually rigorous but incredibly kind,” said Rae Dachille, Forer’s mentor and thesis advisor.

Forer is a dual major in religious studies and biological anthropology and a College of Humanities Ambassador, and she studied Buddhism in Bhutan and Islam in Jordan. She speaks proficient Arabic, has worked with three different professors on separate research projects, created a thesis project on the benefits of Humanities Education and has already landed an upcoming internship with the International Rescue Committee.

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Stacey Tecot, an associate professor of anthropology and Forer’s lab director and anthropology advisor, said Forer is “stellar” and “brilliant,” adding she has clear decision-making skills in the lab that rival Tecot’s own and an academic constitution “on the level of graduate students.”

“In the lab, there is a lot of troubleshooting that can often be so frustrating it causes decision paralysis ...” Tecot said. “This was never a problem for Chelsea. She completely changed the culture in the lab and we are so much more productive because of her.”

Forer said her real achievements are the connections she made with students, mentors and people around the globe.

“It makes sense,” Dachille said, “that Forer chose anthropology. Forer always worked with people. She had experience working with the Hopi prior to attending the UA, and she always wanted to travel.”

But finding her passion within such a broad subject was a bit of a challenge, she said.

“My journey is very much like lily pads in a pond,” Forer said. “I’m always jumping to a new lily pad.”

She decided she wanted to pursue a B.S. in biological anthropology but began running out of credits to fulfill what was required for the Wildcat Excellence Scholarship, so she added religious studies to her resume. 

“[Religion] was something that I never fully understood, which is why I wanted to study it,” Forer said. 

Forer said she is interested in what she calls the “Science of Religion,” or how religions influence the great and small moments in every person’s life.

“Chelsea is able to truly accept every individual tradition or belief as valid and important without ranking them on levels of sophistication or integrity. That is really rare,” Dachille said. “Seeing her on the ground in a global context — she was utterly aware of the gravity of the communities she was working with and the responsibility she has of representing those communities — was influential for me.”

Forer said she believes in the “beauty of culture” and wanted to pursue degrees that would make her a more empathetic and compassionate human being.

“I describe myself as wearing a pair of glasses with multiple, multi-colored lenses like the glasses from National Treasure,” Forer said. 

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Forer said her success in school and abroad is due to her interest and remarkable dedication to the subjects she has chosen to study. 

According to Forer, her father taught her “the worst thing somebody can say is ‘no,’” so she had no problem asking her professors to put her to work.

“Our university being a top-tier research institution, all of the professors are required to do this amazing research that I am really passionate about,” Forer said. “The professors here are more than happy to have undergraduates work with them, and I found that, if you ask, they will be happy to oblige.”

Forer doesn’t know what lies ahead. Graduate school is certainly on her path, but not yet, she said. Community is where she sees herself. She anticipates working with others, maybe in a lab, maybe abroad. She looks forward to relationships with people she has not even met yet. She said her internship with the IRC will help her find out where her passions lie, perhaps with children, women or refugees or maybe with something she has not yet studied.

“The greatest lesson I learned as a student is to go for opportunities,” Forer said, “and if they don’t exist, make them.”


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