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ASU anthropology alumna chosen for distinguished Yale internship

ASU alum Stefania Becerra Lavado wearing a maroon cap and gown and holding the Peru flag on the steps of ASU's Old Main building.

Stefania Becerra Lavado holding the Peru flag on the steps of Old Main on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo courtesy Stefania Becerra Lavado

September 08, 2023

A passion for soccer brought her from Lima, Peru, to the United States and Arizona State University. Now, Stefania Becerra Lavado’s ambition to study anthropology and culture is taking her to Yale University for a yearlong paid internship. 

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would end up going to New Haven this year,” said Becerra Lavado, who graduated from ASU this summer with a degree in anthropology and a minor in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Becerra Lavado is one of two students chosen for the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) internship at Yale. HRAF is an internationally known nonprofit organization focusing on cultural anthropology. The internship was established in honor of Melvin Ember, the former president of HRAF. Interns of the program work with leading world expert Carol Ember and the extensive HRAF database, where they will read, summarize and analyze cross-cultural research. 

Becerra Lavado said the courses and internships she took during her time at ASU helped shape her dedication to anthropology and global health. 

She also participated in a research apprenticeship in the Inclusive Human Learning Lab with Professor Daniel Hruschka, added a global health minor after a course with Associate Professor Robin Nelson and took courses from President’s Professor Amber Wutich, who was mentored by the Embers and teaches in the NSF-HRAF Summer Institutes for Cross-Cultural Anthropological Research (led by Carol). 

“I have mentored Stefania’s work in several domains: as a graduate student in my course on global mental health, as an ambitious and engaged student in our MA program, and as an undergraduate student in my disasters course,” Wutich said. “In all of these experiences, Stefania stands out among her classmates for her intellectual curiosity and her commitment to carving her own unique path in research.”

Becerra Lavado decided to pause her master’s studies for the opportunity at Yale, something she says will help in her future. 

“I want to make this experience the best one so far and use all of this newfound knowledge to pursue my own cross-cultural research in the near future," she said. "I have so many goals set in mind. I am sure this internship will help me get closer to becoming a better anthropologist and fulfill my biggest dream: to share these experiences and knowledge in my native country, Peru.”

Peru to ASU

Stefania Becerra Lavado

Stefania Becerra Lavado came from Peru to the U.S. to play soccer. Photo courtesy Stefania Becerra Lavado

Becerra Lavado started playing soccer when she was 12 years old, older than most children who play in Peru, she said. However, she quickly realized she loved the game. As a teenager, she started playing for a club and was chosen to train for the under-17 Peruvian women’s national football team

She left Peru in 2019 when she was offered a junior college scholarship for soccer. Missing her family and home, she returned to Peru after two years. After encouragement from her grandmother, Becerra Lavado applied to universities in the U.S. again. She was accepted into five universities but decided Arizona State University was the best. 

“ASU has a great anthropology program, and the faculty’s research looked very interesting,” Becerra Lavado said. “But the main reason I chose Arizona was the high percentage of the Hispanic population. In my first two years at junior college, I lived in an area without many Spanish-speaking people, which was tough for me. I am so grateful for choosing ASU because I always felt represented at school. Most of my closest friends were born in Latin America or had parents from there.

“The diversity at ASU is something I will always treasure because it allowed me to speak my language literally every day and made my transition so much easier. “

Becerra Lavado plans to continue to pursue a PhD in anthropology after her internship at Yale. She will focus her research on medical and linguistic anthropology. 

“Living in the capital of Peru and later on migrating to the U.S. to pursue my bachelor’s degree, I realize how much it can impact someone’s health if they speak the predominant language,” Becerra Lavado said. “I want to focus my research on expanding medical and educational services to communities that do not speak the predominant language, mainly Indigenous languages, such as Quechua in Peru.”

During her time at ASU, Becerra Lavado participated in the ASU Women’s Soccer Club and played in the Arizona Women’s Soccer League. She was a member of the Latino/Chicano/Hispanic student organization El Concilio, was an international student ambassador, participated in several internships and worked at The International Students and Scholars Center. She also took Japanese courses and was awarded first place in the 2023 Arizona Japanese Speech Contest, representing ASU.

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