Alumni Spotlight

Jessica Hencier ’10
Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc.

Majors: Anthropology and Sociology

Activities: President of Lambda Alpha (Anthropology honor society)

What first attracted you to Whittier College? I wanted to attend a college with a small-school setting. I knew that at a larger university, I would have been lost in the crowd. I wanted to get to know my professors on a personal level and engage with students in a conversational-setting instead of lecture. 

Why did you choose to study your major? I chose to study my majors because I was interested in how people operate the way they do based on their context and how societal infrastructures define people. I wanted to learn how my own life was defined by the institutions around me, by other cultures, and by my own culture.

Describe your experience at Whittier College. What was your favorite class? My experience at Whittier was great, academically speaking. I enjoyed being able to walk across campus and know everyone. My favorite class was "Le Flaneur," a joint Sociology/French course, which looked at the social life and urban form of Paris and LA. For JanTerm, all 25 of us in the course went to Paris for a month and stayed at a hostel. It was an amazing experience to be in a foreign city but also be surrounded by people you know. We grew together, and I remain friends with many of these people today.

Did you intern while at Whittier College? Where, and what was that experience like? I didn’t necessarily intern while I was at Whittier, but I was a Freshman Writing Seminar peer mentor with professor sal johnston. The experience of being on the other side of the coin was amazing, using my own skills as a writer to help others become effective writers. It was a whole other level.

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? After Whittier, I completed my Masters of Urban Planning at USC. This field was linked to my senior project at Whittier in which I looked at the different transportation systems in LA and how the systems are shaped by urban growth patterns and, in turn, shape how we experience the city and each other. Right now, I am working for Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc., a nonprofit that is working with the City of Los Angeles to deliver the streetcar project to downtown. It’s really exciting.

What advice would you give to future anthropology alumni when they graduate? My advice would be to plug into the professional world right away, especially to connect with networking organizations associated with your field of interest. You get to meet people who are doing what you want to do, take part in informational interviews, and really branch out.

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… Whittier gave me the foundation to grow in both my professional and personal life.