Southeast Missouri State University alumna Emilie Le Febvre is a doctoral student, co-author and non-governmental organization program consultant in Be’er Sheva, the largest city in the Negev Desert of southern Israel.
“My favorite aspects of my various jobs would have to be meeting new people, learning about their diverse experiences, working with them to preserve their history and assisting their efforts to create a better future for their communities,” she says.
She will conduct anthropological fieldwork among the Negev Bedouin as part of her doctoral degree at the University of Oxford in Oxford, United Kingdom. She and her husband will live in the Bedouin village of Laqiya for two years, during which time she will gather ethnographic research about the use of visual documentation such as archival photographs and ethno-documentary films for maintaining and expressing cultural knowledge in small-scale societies such as the Negev Bedouin.
She is co-writing a book with Dr. Henriette Dahan-Kalev, director of the gender studies program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, entitled, “Palestinian Women in Israel: The Particularities of Negev Bedouin Women’s Activism in a Changing Middle East.” The book, which explores the life history of Amal el’ Sana Alh’ jooj, a prominent Bedouin female activist working on women’s issues in her community, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
She is a program consultant and the previous director of development for Achoti (Sister): For Women in Israel, a Mizrahi-feminist organization that promotes the status, culture and visibility of marginalized women throughout the country. The organization works with Mizrahi, Bedouin, Palestinian, Ethiopian and Sudanese women in Israel and Palestine. Their programs focus on creating micro-economic opportunities, folk art-based initiatives and the preservation of minority women’s narratives in the Middle East.
“The knowledge, experience and opportunities I gained at Southeast provided the crucial foundation for the important decisions that have led me to this incredible time and place in my life,” she says.
She graduated from the University in 2001 with a degree in cultural anthropology. She received her postgraduate diploma in international development studies from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, in 2005. She received a Master of Arts in Middle East Studies from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva, Israel, in 2008. She received a Master of Science in Visual Anthropology with distinction from the University of Oxford in 2010.
She says her time at Southeast has contributed to her career in many ways. She gained confidence as a researcher and illustrator as a result of the hands-on guidance, encouragement and support of faculty members such as Dr. Warren Anderson, professor of anthropology, Dr. Martin Jones, retired dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Kathy Smith, associate professor of art, and Carol Horst, instructor of art and middle and secondary education.
“Their commitment to education has inspired me to continue my own educational development and maybe one day have the opportunity to teach in a university setting,” she says.
Her favorite memory from her studies at Southeast was taking AN311, “Archaeological Fieldwork.” During the course, she and her peers conducted a historical archaeological survey and evacuation of the Delassus-Kem House in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., under the supervision of Dr. Carol Morrow, professor of anthropology, and Dr. Kit Wesler, professor of archaeology and director of the Mid-America Remote Sensing Center at Murray State University.
“I gained practical experience in archaeological field methods and discovered my own interest in archaeological illustration. I also learned the importance of thorough archival investigations and community engagement for conducting innovative anthropological research. In addition to our academic fieldwork, I enjoyed learning more about the Ste. Genevieve community and their history. In many ways, this particular course encouraged me to further my interest in the fields of anthropology and community heritage,” she says.
Emilie said she chose Southeast for multiple reasons. First, the University’s educational expenses were lower than other schools in the region, and this allowed her to supplement a portion of her tuition cost with part-time work during her studies. Second, the savings she accrued during this time and Southeast’s relative flexibility regarding overseas programs allowed her to study in Kathmandu, Nepal, for one semester and participate in the British Universities North America Club’s work abroad program a second semester.
Emilie grew up in Jackson, Mo. She fished often in Hubble Creek, played basketball in the Jackson Noon Optimist Club and worked at the local Pizza Hut. Her favorite things to do in Cape Girardeau are fishing, canoeing, camping, hunting and hiking in the various national and state parks in the region.
“I believe southeast Missouri, southern Illinois and the Ozarks host some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. During my trips back home, I always try to find time to go fishing with my father and explore the incredible rivers, creeks and lakes found in and around Cape Girardeau,” she says.
One of her favorite hobbies is volunteering or working as an archeological illustrator for evacuations. According to Emilie, doing this has allowed her to have several incredible opportunities to further her interest in archaeology and fine art, interests cultivated during her time at Southeast. By doing this, she has learned techniques for drawing various artifacts, including skeletal remains, lithics, pottery, architectural features and other finds. As a result, she has studied with the American Anthropological Association in Kampsville, Ill., and assisted in their work on Mississippian Native American societies, volunteered with a State University of New York-Earthwatch project in Belize exploring Post-Classic Mayan sites and worked with the Israeli Antiquities Authority on a Neolithic site in central Israel.
Of all the places Emilie has traveled, her favorite is the Middle East.
“This region not only boasts incredible history and landscape, but the people and their culture have always fascinated me. I have had the pleasure of exploring the vast deserts of Sinai, to drink tea with Bedouins along the shores of the Red Sea, and teach the occasional Egyptian man that Missouri girls can play billiards. This region has been stigmatized by the press for ongoing conflict and struggles. However, I have found that the people living here are extremely similar to us, and in fact, wish for the same security and opportunities that we have in the United States,” she says.
She said she feels blessed to find herself living in an ancient stone house located in Jaffa, claimed to be the oldest port in the world and founded by Japhet, the son of Biblical Noah, overlooking the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.
“Closing my eyes, I can hear the muezzin chanting the Islamic call to prayers or adhan over the town’s loud speakers in the background. Looking over my room, I see my packed bags and supplies ready for my upcoming fieldwork to the southern desert to live with the Negev Bedouin. Sitting back, I think to myself, ‘How did this Missouri girl get here? Was it by luck, hard work, naiveté or passion?’ All that I know is that, as with anyone’s life, our journeys are characterized by a combination of each. However, what is most important is having the determination to constantly broaden your knowledge of life and what it has to offer,” she says.
Emilie advises future Southeast students, “A solid university education can provide you with incredible opportunities. I believe that many students feel restricted by finances, family obligations and background during their education. However, my own experiences have demonstrated that many of these obstacles can be overcome with hard work, maintaining focus on your dreams, taking advantage of opportunities provided by government programs and scholarships, and most importantly, having the courage to explore the amazing world in which we live. While maintaining high GPAs, grades and scholarships is important, you have to support the knowledge you gain during your coursework with real-life experiences and pragmatic engagement. I firmly believe that a good education requires both. So, take up opportunities provided by Southeast’s internships, fieldwork programs, overseas studies and work/volunteer abroad projects during your time there.”