Anthropologist & Mentor

Treena Orchard, an anthropologist at Western University in London Ontario

Researcher. Empath. Activist.

I felt a calling to pursue this unique field of study from a young age. Museums, art galleries, and libraries were foundational places of learning as a child and I felt at home in the quiet rooms of beauty and many rows of books.

Seeing and reading about cultural practices, especially those about bodily adornment and adolescent rituals, among different Indigenous people around the world sparked my deep interest. Being informed about current social and political events was also something instilled in me, along with the importance of social justice.

The adventures of an anthropologist…in Taos, New Mexico in 2016

I was fortunate to be mentored by inspiring and supportive professors, peers, and other important people as I journeyed through my academic degrees.

Beyond providing me with the scholastic background I needed to carve out my areas of research interest, these individuals helped show me how to move through life as an anthropologist. What does this mean? It refers to considering the visible and less evident factors that shape how people experience things, think about them, and act on their interpretations.

It often means that I’m always “on” because everyday life is my field site; it’s all fascinating and I’m constantly driven to make sense of things. It can be exhausting, but it’s a small price to pay for the richness of human understanding that comes with being an engaged anthropologist.

My research combines cultural and medical, which is reflected in the diversity of projects I’ve participated in over the years. I am especially interested in how different marginalized communities make their place in the world, which is something I have a bit of personal experience with from my childhood.

The lives of women and the topics of sexuality, gender, and the politics of health are some of the specific topics I often explore in my work and my teaching as a professor.

I have learned much from my time on this ‘third rock from the sun’ and folding these experiences into my research, teaching, and personal journey as a healing woman in the world is something I’m proud of.

Student Feedback

 I love when students share their insights and feedback about their experiences in my classes.

You have played an unimaginably large role in my decision to pursue this area of study – not only through your classes but also through the hours you have spent talking to me as I sat lost in your office. You pushed me to realize and pursue what I am most passionate about, and for that, I will always be grateful.

After being in your class for three out of my four years of undergrad, I don’t think there is any professor at Western that knows me better, and I know there isn’t a single professor I admire as much as I do you.

You are the most obvious choice when asked for an academic reference because you are my professor, my mentor and my friend. You already know how much I love and respect you, but thank you so much for this, and for everything you continue to do for me.

What else could you ask for as a professor?

We are all hoping to lead a life with a little bit of fun, integrity and love. Yet, more and more, we seem to be encountering breakdowns in relationships. From the microcosm of dating to broader gender and social inequity, I help guide my students to understand how they affect and are affected by the ways we interact with one another.

Another wonderful email from another truly engaged and inspiring student…

I just wanted to extend a quick thank you for your efforts throughout the course this year. I was very unsure of what to expect, however, I was pleasantly surprised as you constantly forced me out of my comfort zone, yet provided helpful support and guidance.

Your passion for teaching is inspiring and created a memorable class experience this semester. Thanks for everything, wishing you all the best!

I couldn’t be more grateful to my students, mentees & friends for sharing their thoughts with me – and it’s a privilege to share them with you.