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July 25, 2017 | Stories from the Field
By Hana Jariabková


Melissa Vogel is an anthropologist by training and a Professor of Social Science at Clemson University in South Carolina. Melissa begins by sharing about being a busy mum of four stepchildren and one child. Previously, we exchanged a couple of emails and and without knowing a thing about her, I had made up my mind about how old she may be and what she may look like. The reality is far from my ideas about her – she’s an energetic woman in early 40’s.

“Already always listening distinction has made me aware of so many biases,” Melissa says, “I realized I have the worst listening with my parents and sister. I’ve known them for all these years and I think I already know everything they say, and it takes something to hear what they’re saying.” She goes on to say, “I’ve learnt to be a lot more compassionate and patient and helpful by being out here with them – that is being fully present and authentically listening to what they’re saying rather than making assumptions based on my default context for them.”

Melissa participated in the Being A Leader And The Effective Exercise Of Leadership Course in summer 2016 and after extensive training, began teaching the course starting the following spring semester. She said to me that she was struggling with her career at that time and the course came at the right time. When she was thinking of making a career shift, it seemed to her she’d either have to stay or leave.

I had been living my life asking for permission, but today if I step on somebody’s toes, I just apologize.

Yet leaving would be difficult – she’s been with the university for more than 11 years and in her own words, “Nobody leaves [this kind of job] overnight.” Moving to a different city or state also wasn’t an option due to her family. “[During the course] I was asking myself, ‘How can I create this future where I don’t have to leave this [academic] world? How can I be free still being there? How can I value what I got from the university, even when I no longer felt satisfied at that time?’” Today, she’s “reinventing herself” and is one year into the process of a new career.

“I had these blinders on,” Melissa continued. She said she had seen “obstacles and changes in administration” at the university until she discovered her default context. “I had been living my life asking for permission, but today if I step on somebody’s toes, I just apologize. I’ve been taking new things on and everyone’s happy with that. If I just do it, people are thrilled.”

Melissa reveals that she’s been wanting to do something more relevant to everyday people’s lives. She’s creating a new Business Anthropology course that she’s going to start teaching. “What’s been wonderful about the Leadership Course is realizing that unlimited possibilities are available to me. Before taking that I don’t know if I would’ve allowed myself to dream a created future.”

And from what Melissa tells me, she is not the only one dreaming and fulfilling on futures that were not possible before. “I think all of the students in the course benefited greatly from taking the Leadership Course.” Her student Jeremy, who did a great job on his leadership project, which was to make the annual Clemson Drag Show the biggest and best yet. Another one, Katherine, greatly increased her self-confidence in her abilities and improved her body image by recognizing her life sentences. A third, Mitchell, said the course had completely changed how he occurred for himself, and that he’d become more confident in his interactions with others.

What’s next for Melissa?

“I lived out my childhood dream for over 20 years as an archaeologist in Peru. It became my second home. That’s why I’m sure I’ll go back to visit. But other than that, I have no created future about Peru. I need a new challenge.” I smile, because I know what she means, and hope she throws her hat over the fence soon and continues living the dream.

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Melissa Vogel is a Professor of Anthropology at Clemson University in South Carolina, USA, where she co-leads The Being A Leader And The Effective Exercise Of Leadership Course, after having completed the course herself in 2016. She is also developing a Business Anthropology course, and has recently began creating a women’s leadership professional development program. To find out more about upcoming Leadership courses, click here.


Hana Jariabková is an author and online marketing expert based out of London, UK. She teaches courses on content and social media marketing and is a tutor at the University of the Arts London. Hana loves writing and has published short stories for adults and a children’s book. You can find out more about Hana from her blog www.hanajaywrites.com. Hana also participated in the 2016 Being A Leader And The Effective Exercise Of Leadership Course in Abu Dhabi, UAE.