College of Arts & Sciences Valedictorian Emma Jacobsen seeks out complexities

Emma Jacobsen isn't one to waste time. The 2012 Pacific University College of Arts & Sciences valedictorian and 2009 alumna of Hillsboro's Glencoe High School will graduate with honors from Pacific on May 19 with a degree in anthropology after just three years of college study.

She has been accepted to the prestigious University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where she will begin pursuit of a master's degree in social anthropology this fall.

The resident of Cornelius elected to stay close to home for her undergraduate experience after graduating from Glencoe as valedictorian in just three years as well.

She recently turned 20 and has her sights set on a career in academia.

Jacobsen developed a love for learning as a child and her appetite for knowledge intensified at age 11 following a trip with her parents to Oxford.

"From a young age, I recognized the mechanics and underlying logics of teaching," she said. "Even then, my dream was to be a university professor."

For Jacobsen, Oxford is just the latest chapter in a continual journey to understand the deep complexities of cultures throughout the world.

"Now, I seek to demystify the mysterious and grasp the logics of cultures in an effort to bring greater clarity to our understanding of others."

Jacobsen's undergraduate research—required to graduate—focused on the cultural complexities of dressage, a sport and art form that consists of training a horse through a series of delicate ballet-like movements while carrying a rider.

A dressage enthusiast herself, Jacobsen reveled in the mental and physical rigor of the practice. The more she rode, however, the less comfortable she felt about the dressage subculture.

"In many circumstances, dressage riders have created an Old World pseudo-feudal system based upon the breeding of horses, the accolades of their trainers and their own riding skills and knowledge," she said.

"The seat on the horse still distinguishes the grooms from the noblemen, where tradition and history hold precedent in a vain attempt to exist in a highly disciplined world with clearly defined social statuses and roles.

For Jacobsen, anthropology at Pacific became a way of communicating otherwise inaccessible truths and meanings to others who were not familiar with a given culture.

"It was through my writing and fieldwork that I began to fully grasp the nuances and contours of anthropology. I began to understand the inherent complexities behind capturing the lived reality of different communities."

Jacobsen wants to continue to explore the subtleties and intricacies of the underlying logics that drive and shape our daily lives and experiences.

"I choose to move forward with determination and introspection as I pursue my work, just to catch a glimpse of a meaning and truth I have not yet seen. I only hope I can share it with others through robust discussion, civic engagement, and complete immersion."

Friday, May 11, 2012