Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/09/2012

Sienna R. Craig, Ph.D., Class of 1991
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Dartmouth College

Last August I returned to California to celebrate my 20th high school reunion. As part of that trip, I spent some hours sifting through boxes of writing, photos, and other memorabilia from that period in my life. Among the high school yearbooks, young adult musings, and drafts of college entrance essays, I found a yellowed notebook that contained the actual program from the 1991 Academy of Achievement event in New York City, along with my notes. This was a treasure — a precious gem of meaning and experience — and a look back at the most remarkable event. Beside Audrey Hepburn’s photograph I’d scrawled “Grace, incarnate.” Beside the photograph of General Norman Schwarzkopf, I wrote notes that reflected my background — a child of California “hippies” who still feels the visceral burdens of a nation so defined by conflict.

Many other memories came flooding back to me as I sat cross-legged on the floor of my father’s home in rural Monterey County, but the most significant were the notes I had written after sitting together at an Academy dinner one evening with Edmund and Sylvia Morris. In a phrase, we clicked. Edmund and I began a correspondence that summer, before I matriculated at Brown. This letter-based relationship blossomed into the most meaningful mentorship I have had in my life, one that extended through my college years and continues to the present. I interned with the Morrisses for two summers, assisting them with their biographies of Ronald Reagan and Clare Booth Luce. Edmund and Sylvia have taught me so much about writing, life, and the writing life. They remain exemplars: people of great integrity, boundless imagination, and insight.

During my years in college, I also developed a love for the people and landscapes of the Himalaya, Nepal and the Tibetan areas of China. After a semester spent in Nepal during my junior year at Brown, I was fortunate to be granted a Fulbright fellowship for further anthropological study in the country. A one-year postgraduate grant led to three years of living in Nepal, where I met a fellow Brown grad Ken Bauer.

In 1999, Ken and I co-founded Drokpa, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting grassroots development and social entrepreneurship in the Himalaya and Tibet. Ken and I married that year, and shortly thereafter, I began a Ph.D. program in cultural and medical anthropology at Cornell, which I completed in 2006. From there, I came to Dartmouth, where I have been an assistant professor for the past six years. Ken and I live in Vermont with Aida Claire, our seven-year-old daughter. Last week I received the wonderful news that I’ve been granted tenure.

My professional work as an anthropologist includes writing and teaching on subjects such as the cross-cultural study of illness and healing, global health issues (with a particular focus on maternal and child health), and the struggles of traditional medical practitioners in Asia to defend and transform their practices in the 21st century.

I’ve published several books and many articles on these and related topics, including my ethnographic memoir, Horses Like Lightning: A Story of Passage through the Himalayas (2008), Medicine Between Science and Religion: Explorations on Tibetan Grounds (2010), and Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine (forthcoming July 2012). I’ve also published a children’s story, Clear Sky, Red Earth: A Himalayan Story (2004) with the Nepali artist Tenzin Norbu, and a book of poetry Sacred Geography: Sonnets of Tibetan and Himalayan Landscape (2005), with my mother, artist Mary Heebner.

I also serve as the Chair of the Medical Advisory Board of One Heart Worldwide, an organization dedicated to improving the survival of women and children, one birth at a time. I will be returning to Nepal this summer on a National Science Foundation-funded research trip, focusing on women’s reproductive histories and Tibetan adaptation to living at high altitude.

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