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(November 2017 Newsletter) Alumna Spotlight: From EHS Valedictorian to Yale Grad

By Nhan Pham
These days, Alder Keleman can certainly say she has come a long way from just being an alumna from the Eastmont School District since the first grade. 

As one of five valedictorians from the class of 1998, Keleman is an environmental anthropologist with educational pedigree from the likes of Yale University. Over the years, Keleman has been to Latin America, Europe and Australia and has done elaborate research projects on topics like agrobiodiversity.

But something seemingly ordinary proved to be a major starting point for all of these educational pursuits and adventures around the world - Spanish class in ninth grade. Sometimes, all it takes is some sort of catalyst to guide your life toward a certain direction. Spanish class for Keleman became more than just a class elective. It would pique her curiosity and pave the way for her academic journey.

Thanks to some excellent teachers in her Spanish classes, Keleman and other students received encouragement to interact with their classmates. Keleman dabbled with Spanish lessons in elementary and middle school. But from ninth grade and onward, she started to learn the language more extensively as a
proper extracurricular. 

To this day, she is now proficient in multiple languages that include Spanish and Portuguese. At Eastmont High School, Keleman participated in yearbook and was a member of the Swim Team. She also did
club swimming year-round. 

She played viola in orchestra and took part in a youth symphony group in the Wenatchee area. After graduating high school, Keleman studied at Scripps College down in California, where she majored in biology and Latin American studies. 

As an undergrad, she spent a semester in Chile and a semester in London studying abroad. These trips around the world would just be the beginning for Keleman. Upon finishing her undergraduate studies at Scripps College in 2002, Keleman would further continue her global adventures thanks to a grant from the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. 

This was a research-oriented fellowship that allowed her to do her work overseas. She traveled to places like Australia, Costa Rica and Brazil where she conducted a lot of studies about plant biology. Over the years, Keleman would earn both her master’s (2006) and PhD (spring of 2017) from Yale University for various fields like environmental science/anthropology and international relations.

And she did so while working for organizations/fellowships and conducting lots of field work in places
such as Mexico. In fact, her dissertation to earn her PhD was about the impact of indigenous foods for Bolivia and how this affected other aspects of their society as a whole.

Nowadays, Keleman has a busy schedule between family life and her various academic duties. She currently is a postdoctoral researcher for Aarhus University in Denmark. An online publication called Feral Atlas is something she codirects. 

As a platform, the purpose of Feral Atlas is to keep notes of invasive species for research purposes. When she is not researching, one thing is certain for Keleman. You can always expect her to travel. And remember where this desire to explore other cultures began back here in the Eastmont School District - Spanish class
in ninth grade.

“I think it was not such a big deal at the time,” she said. “But it really made a big impact on my life.”
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