Author Archives: admin

About me

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Anthropology
Michigan State University
Developer and Lead Instructor
Introduction to Medical Anthropology
Michigan State University
Assessment Researcher
Centers for Integrative Studies
Michigan State University
SIG Chair
Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco Study Group
Society for Medical Anthropology

Fellow (Dissertation Fieldwork)
Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Karim – CV by tazinkarim


Disseration Defense Announcement


Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Abstract

For many Americans, the college years signify a transitional period between adolescence and adulthood, where competing values systems shape individual identities and experiences. In this context, pharmaceutical treatments for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have become objects of ongoing experimentation for students to increase cognitive function, manage time, and enhance overall college life. This research traces the social lives of these medications as they are prescribed, exchanged, and consumed on a large U.S. campus. It employs interviews and participant observation methods to explore the various networks and resources that are mobilized by drug seekers and the shifting discourses of health, performance, agency, and risk which surround these transactions. Specifically, I ask: how does the repurposing of mental health medications as ‘study drugs’ reproduce or complicate legacies of pharmaceutical normalization and enhancement in post-industrial American culture? In what ways do these experiments intersect local and institutional worlds and present new possibilities for constructing medical, social, and academic difference? How do their circulations through various networks produce agency or result in dependency on these drugs to improve health and/or performance? I argue that by identifying the contexts, actors, exchanges and value systems that facilitate the multiple uses of ADHD medications, this project provides a necessary anthropological understanding of this drug behavior. As a result, it also sheds light on the strategic ways U.S. college students are operating in shifting paradigms of medicalization, biomedicalization and pharmaceuticalization in order to achieve a successful college experience.

Research Contributions

My research traces the social life of prescription stimulants as they are repurposed by American college students for neuroenhancement. Its primary objective is to move past the reductive view of these drugs as pragmatic “tools” students use to improve grades, and shed light on their ethical influence on expectations, measurements, and improvements of performance in the U.S. Drawing on 24 months of interviews and participant observation with students, educators, advertisers, and medical professionals, my research provides ethnographic data to contextualize the social and symbolic mechanisms of pharmaceuticalization in postindustrial American culture. I conceptualize the contributions of this research as part of three overlapping threads that stem from my interest in pharmaceutical anthropology:

Mental Health Studies: My research contributes to a nuanced understanding of how mental health pharmaceuticals can shape the illness experience and offer new possibilities for exploring medical and social potentials. Anthropologists have already established how advancements in neuroscience have encouraged individuals to reframe their social shortcomings as mental disorders that require medical interventions to resolve. At the same time, the increasing flexibility and inconsistency of mental health diagnoses have lead to a widespread skepticism of modern psychiatry. My research agenda offers ethnographic evidence to illustrate the effects of this tension on doctor-patient interactions and the ethical identity construction of mental health patients.

Addiction Studies: My research with middle-upper class white American college students fills a significant demographic gap in the Anthropology of Substance Use. It challenges the traditional view of “drug dealers” and offers a new theoretical framework for understanding the pressure individuals feel to illegally divert their medications. My research shows that patients develop ethical criteria to morally distance themselves from images of the corrupt, self-interested, drug dealer. These criteria are guided by four main concerns: (1) a desire to maintain agency over the drug exchange; (2) a sense of social and medical responsibility for their peers; (3) a fear of social and legal implications and, (4) a desire to preserve one’s ethical self-understanding. As a result, this research sheds light on how Americans must actively avoid dependency on pharmaceuticals during their pursuits of mental health and/or increased performance.

Science and Technology Studies: My research agenda situates the experiments with pharmaceuticals within the emergent imaginary of neuroenhancement. It provides evidence to examine questions of medical risks, controlled access and social coercion surrounding these controversial practices. As a result, it highlights the tension between authoritative discourses produced by scientists and the phenomenological experiences of individuals who actually use these drugs. By tracing the social life of prescription stimulants, my research also contributes to a controversial body of work on the Material Semiotic Method and the agency of objects. It unveils transformative powers of enhancement technologies to mediate social exchanges and give rise to new biomedical and social subjectivities. This line of research has becomes especially relevant as more and more Americans seek out medical enhancements to improve their social circumstances.

Digital Anthropology

#Adderall: Constructions of Prescription Drug Use in Digital Spaces

This study investigated the way in which individuals use visual forms of social media to promote ideologies and experiences with prescription stimulants. Previous studies indicate that the prominence of drug-related content published in social media sites, such as Twitter, has resulted in the normalization of illicit drug behaviors in real life (Hanson et al. 2013). Alternatively, this project focused on representations of drug use on Instagram, a social media application dedicated to online photo sharing. Between August and December of 2013, over 1,100 images with the hashtag #adderall were collected and coded according to image content, and associated language content (captions and hashtags). Results showed that experiences with prescription stimulants ranged from medical treatments, to illicit use, to cognitive enhancement. The data indicated that individuals were also using social media as a way to connect with others to both sell and procure prescription stimulants illicitly. Thus, this study supports the claim that social media both normalizes illicit drug use as well as de-stigmatizes other legal forms of use. It also suggests that Instagram is an important environment to research digital drug dealing culture in the future.

This project was conducted by a team of undergraduate research assistants under the mentorship of Tazin Karim Daniels. We are currently working on two articles based on this work:

Daniels, Tazin Karim, Erin Mobley and Alex Chavez. 2015. #Adderall: Constructions of Prescription Drug Use in Digital Spaces. Journal of Medical Internet Research. (In progress)

Daniels, Tazin Karim, Justin Kenton and Shivani Pandya. 2015. Selling Study Drugs: Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Cognitive Enhancing Drugs. Social Science & Medicine. (In progress)

Works Cited:

Hanson CL, Burton SH, Giraud-Carrier C, West JH, Barnes MD, Hansen B. Tweaking and Tweeting: Exploring Twitter for Nonmedical Use of a Psychostimulant Drug (Adderall) Among College Students. J Med Internet Res 2013;15(4):e62 URL:

Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellowship 2012-2013


Adderall is a prescription stimulant designed to treat the symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – a condition affecting 12% of children and 5% of adults in the U.S. In 2010, Americans spent nearly $7 billion dollars on prescription treatments for this disorder, which is more than double that spent in 2004. With so many pills in circulation today, it is not surprising that some have made their way into the hands of people without prescriptions. Reports show that nonmedical Adderall use has become prevalent among a variety of individuals including housewives, professional football players and college students looking to increase productivity and manage their high-stress lives.

Anthropologists have referred to the unprecedented incorporation of prescription drugs like Adderall into daily life as “pharmaceuticalization” – a complex process that is reshaping the way we understand our health, bodies, relationships, and identities. One way to examine this process systematically is to look at the “social life” of the drug itself. Geest and Whyte (1996:153) explain how pharmaceuticals can be studied biographically:

“From production, marketing, and prescription to distribution, purchasing, consumption, and finally their efficacy… Each phase has its own particular context, actors, and transactions and is characterized by different sets of values and ideas”.

Building on this model, this project examines an understudied dimension of Adderall’s social life – its “digital life”. On average, Americans spend nearly two hours a day on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and YouTube which have given them a new way to connect with others and share their ideas and experiences. Accordingly, participation in social media should be understood and studied as an extension of the lived human experience. In particular, this project highlights the various ways Americans are actively constructing the virtual image of Adderall as a treatment for ADHD, a recreational party drug, and as a cognitive enhancer. I accomplish this by presenting and analyzing three forms of social media produced around Adderall: linguistic (Twitter), photographic (Instagram), and multimedia (YouTube).

twitter transparent

Twitter is an online micro-blogging site where users can instantly upload and share 140-character narratives called “tweets” on any topic imaginable. To date there has been a phenomenal amount of social science research conducted on the cultural significance of digital micro-blogging as a form of communication, ideological expression, and ultimately, public identity construction. Of particular interest to this project is understanding how people understand and leverage the public nature of Twitter when mentioning controversial topic such as Adderall use.


“Public/Private Space”

Are tweets about Adderall just passing thoughts, private messages between peers… or are they meant to be broadcast to a broader audience? To explore this question, I have included two live streams on this section of the project site. Both streams were created using the embeddable Twitter Widget. The first is a search query of the hashtag #adderall. The fact that the user manually categorized their tweets through the hashtag function suggests that they want to somehow publicize their micro-narrative and associate it with their digital identity. The second is a search query of just the term “adderall” without the hashtag. The postulation here is that although they are sharing their tweet with their own follower base, they aren’t necessarily intending their micro-narrative to be discoverable by the entire world. By viewing these streams side by side, one can quickly gauge the frequency of these tweets, as well as the language being used to talk about Adderall online.




instagram transparentInstagram is an online photo-sharing application that allows users to snap a picture with their smartphones and upload it to a variety of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. Although it was launched less than three years ago, there are currently over 100 million active users of the app. One of the most appealing features of Instagram is a user’s ability to quickly edit photos and add filters to make any picture seem like a professionally shot photograph. A icecream sundae suddenly becomes a work of art. Similarly, a broken Adderall pill, a self-portrait of a stressed college student, or a new prescription from a doctor holds some intrinsic aesthetic value, waiting to be transformed and shared with the world. Given that I have not personally interviewed any of these contributors to the #adderall collection, I can only speculate their intentions and the kind of messages they are trying to convey with these images. Yet by looking at them as a collection, one can start to see how people are simultaneously interpreting the idea of Adderall in their own lives and actively shaping the virtual life of the drug itself through Instagram.

“Images of Adderall”

Collectively, a user’s stream of pictures fundamentally shapes their own virtual identity on Instagram. Much like other sites, Instagram users can follow each other – making their pictures a form of social capital. It is entirely possible that people see #adderall as a trendy hashtag that would attract the attention a particular kind of follower. In this way, #adderall is no longer just about representing the drug, but some kind of cultural value or ideology that the term “adderall” invokes. Above is a live feed of images created with Widget.stagram with the hashtag #adderall. This dynamic visualization is intended to illustrate how people are actively constructing the virtual life of Adderall in the moment. It also illustrates the vast range of images people are associating with the drug.

“A Snapshot of Finals Week”

To date, there are almost 14,000 images labeled with the hashtag #adderall. Unfortunately, I have not been able to identify a program that is able to quickly and effectively harvest and analyze Instagrams based on hashtags. This means this laborious work needs to be done manually. For the purposes of this project, I used the same time frame of finals week for spring semester at Michigan State University (April 27, 2013 – May 2, 2013) to see how people were visually representing their thoughts and experiences with Adderall online. During this time period, over 130 photos were harvested and are presented as a collage created through PhotoJ.




youtube transparentYouTube is an online video sharing website created in 2005 where registered users can upload a range of multimedia content including but not limited to alternative news media, comedy sketch videos, how to video tutorials, and independently produced webisodes. By far, one of the most popular forms of multimedia on YouTube is the music video. While mainstream artists post some of their own professionally produced content, YouTube has also become a platform for a new artist to be discovered, or even just an outlet for someone to share a moment of musical creativity or expression with the world.

“Adderall Songs”

Music has been a medium for creating and preserving human culture for thousands of years. It can be an audible representation of how an individual or society recollects a certain moment in history. It can also be used to connect with others who share the same sentiments or are going through similar experiences. Accordingly, more and more people are using this medium to share their attitudes and experiences with drugs – including Adderall. To date, there are literally dozens of music videos on YouTube dedicated to Adderall. Genres range from mainstream hip-hop, to comedy, to even country – each highlighting the lighter and darker sides of the drug.

A music video is a complex piece of data to analyze – each one has visual, audio, and linguistic components. But together as a timeline, this collection of videos serves as a data set which illustrates the range, frequency and popularity of these videos over a given time period. The associated visualization was created with TimeLine.Verite.Co, an open-source tool which allows users to create interactive timelines with a clean user interface. After a conducting a YouTube search for the term “Adderall”, I generated a Google spreadsheet which included meta data on each video such as the upload date, genre, number of videos, as well as a hyperlink to the video itself. The TimeLine tool pulled information from this spreadsheet and provided me with an embed code to include on the project website.


Karim, Tazin. 2012. @PharmaCulture: Where Prescription Drugs Meet Digital Anthropology. Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative. Michigan State University. 

Karim, Tazin. 2013. Teaching Anthropology in the Digital Age. General Anthropology. Volume 20 (1). Spring Pg: 1-9

Karim, Tazin. 2013. “The @Adderall_RX Girl: Pharmaceutical Self-branding and Identity in Social Media.” Ethnography Matters.

Karim, Tazin. 2013. “Practical Training for the Digitally Il/literate Anthropologist”. Savage Minds.

Karim, Tazin. 2013. “#Adderall: Positionality and Ethics in Social Science Research.” Savage Minds.

Karim, Tazin. 2013. The Commodification of Celebrity Health. The Anthropologies Project.

Karim, Tazin. 2013. “Passing with Pills: Redefining Performance in the Pharmaceuticalized University.” TheAnthropologies Project.

Karim, Tazin. 2012. “Meducating Our Children: The Moral Influence of Adderall on Education, Parenting, and Treatment.” Somatosphere.

Karim, Tazin. 2012. “Medical Imaginaries and Technological Futures.” Somatosphere.


Current Positions

2015  Instructor for ANP 270: Women and Health: Anthropological and International Perspectives, MSU

2013-2015   Research Coordinator for Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, MSU

2012-2015  Instructor and Developer for ANP 204: Introduction to Medical Anthropology, MSU

2012-2015  Curriculum Developer for Anthropology, Centers for Integrative Studies in General Science (CISGS), Social Science (ISS), and the Humanities (IAH)

Previous Teaching Experience

2014               Curriculum Developer for ISB 204: Applications in Biomedical Sciences, MSU

2013               Developer/Consultant for Foundations of Science MOOC, Center for Integrative Studies, MSU

2013               Teaching Assistant for Cultural Heritage Informatics Field School in Data Visualization, MSU

2010-2014      Online Course Assistant/Developer (8 courses), Department of Anthropology, MSU

2011               Instructor/Co-developer for ANP 201: Introduction to Sociocultural Diversity, MSU

2009               Course Supervisor (35 sections, 12 TAs), ISB 208L: Applications in Biological Sciences, MSU

2008-2010     Mentor/Facilitator, Teaching Assistant Program, MSU

2006-2009     Instructor for ISB 208L: Applications in Biology and Science and Society, MSU

Awards and Fellowships

2013 PFF-ASL Fellowship, MSU The Graduate School and TA Programs
The Preparing Future Faculty for the Assessment of Student Learning (PFF-ASL) program selects individuals from various departments and offers a series of interactive workshops and breakout sessions. The purpose of this fellowship is to help instructors revise their curriculum around effective student learning and assessment.

2013 Foundations of Science MOOC Development Fellowship, The Gates Foundation
I am currently working with a team of professors and graduate students on a massive open online course (MOOC) which was funded by the Gate Foundation. It will be offered for the first time this summer to an estimated 8,000-10,000 students worldwide. I was also selected to be one of two TA for this course

2013 Certification in College Teaching, MSU School of Social Science
This certification includes an intensive curriculum of workshops and lectures, a mentored teaching project, and the creation of a final teaching portfolio. My mentored teaching project was done under the supervision of Dr. Ethan Watrall and examined the effectiveness of blogging as a tool to increase active learning and build a stronger class room community.

2012 Ron Hart Award for Outstanding Teaching, MSU Department of Anthropology
This prize is awarded each year to an anthropology student who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in teaching anthropology. It is chosen by the chair of the Anthropology department at MSU. The prize for this award was $500.

2010 Teaching Award, MSU Center for Integrative Studies in General Science
I received special recognition from the CISGS for my years of work in their biology and society course, as well as my distinguished leadership role as lab supervisor in 2009. The prize for this award was $650.

2009 Learning Leader Award, MSU Department of Residence Life
The Department of Residence Life conducts a survey among all of their undergraduates and identifies instructors who inspire students academically. I received this award for my work in Integrative Studies as an instructor who successfully motivated non-majors to get excited about the intersections of science and society.

Teaching Philosophy

At its core, Medical Anthropology is an interdisciplinary field of study. It leverages theories and methods across sub-fields to examine humans as both cultural and biological beings. As a result, our field attracts students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, many of whom are intimidated by cultural theory and/or the medical sciences. Whether anthropology students are mulling over the mechanisms of evolution or pre-med majors are grappling with the social construction of race, in my experience, real learning only occurs when students are intellectually challenged. Thus, my goal as an instructor is to foster an environment where my students, regardless of their background, feel confident challenging their own preconceived notions and exploring new ideas. During my seven years of university level instruction, I have witnessed the inability to handle these academic challenges manifest itself as a range of debilitating behaviors – absence from class or lack of participation; procrastination on difficult assignments; emphasis on grades over knowledge; and even academic dishonesty. By (1) establishing confidence through affective learning, (2) building confidence through experiential learning and (3) reinforcing confidence through regular formative assessments, I help my students navigate around these potential pitfalls. This approach is especially effective in introductory courses where students have the lowest sense of self-efficacy due to lack of prior knowledge.

Affective Learning: I have found that the quickest way to establish confidence in my students is to remind them that they each bring something unique to the table. They start the semester with an assignment in which they blog about their expectations of my course and the kinds of expertise they can draw upon to get the most out of this experience. For example, Peter, a human biology major, talked about his budding interest in medical anthropology after he participated in a study abroad trip to Ghana; whereas Emily, a chemistry major who had never left the country or took an anthropology class in her life, wondered if this course could help her understand why her parents had such a hard time finding treatments programs for her autistic younger brother. Throughout the semester, I encourage each of my students to continue personalizing the course by blogging each week about how the materials relate to their professional interests in medicine, as well as their own personal interactions with the medical world. I also make an effort to regularly participate in these public discussions to demonstrate my own willingness to engage with their ideas and make sense of their experiences, anthropologically. These strategies encourage my students to invest themselves in the class, connect to their classmates, and continue their journey through upper level courses in the major. This was the case for both Peter and Emily who, despite their disparate social and academic backgrounds, have decided to pursue minors in Anthropology before applying to medical school next fall.

Experiential Learning: Once my students feel comfortable discussing course concepts and sharing their own ideas with each other, the next step is to start challenging them with authentic learning experiences. For example, students in my course spend one week learning about how to conduct ethnographic interviews with patients in order to construct an illness narrative. They start by analyzing YouTube videos of illness experiences and eventually conduct their own interview with a friend or family member to produce an original illness narrative. By reflecting on their experience as the interviewer, they see first hand how anthropological methods can be a valuable tool for medical professionals. For example, one student wrote:

“As a future medical professional, I hope to use many of the anthropological approaches that I have learned in this class. Before this course I probably would have been inclined to look at every illness as having a simple biological solution… I also do not think I would have given the patient’s illness story enough weight in future diagnoses had I not learned about the illness narrative via the experiential anthropological method… In the future I hope to consider as many cultural facets as possible before diagnosing a patient or simply assuming that I have the solution to a health problem.”

As students in my course continue to see the tangible benefits of our field to their own professional goals, many of them have approached me about how they can get more experience “doing” medical anthropology. As a result of this demand, and my own desire to mentor students, I offer opportunities to work on collaborative research projects at the end of each semester. My mentoring philosophy is to hold my undergraduates to the same expectations of performance as I would any graduate student. They play an active role in designing research questions, collecting and analyzing data, and producing scholarly publications. For example, I am currently wrapping up a yearlong project with eight undergraduates investigating the visual presentation of pharmaceutical practices on social networking sites such as Twitter and Instagram. This practical experience provides my students with the confidence to complete a research project from hypothesis to publication, as well as outstanding academic writing skills that will serve them well in their post-graduate careers. I know this because several of my former research assistants have been accepted into medical school at MSU, the public health program at University of Michigan, and other various graduate programs across the country. I keep in touch with each of them and am always pleasantly surprised when they describe the myriad of ways my course and subsequent research experience continues to benefit their professional trajectories.

Formative Assessments: The final step in my approach to teaching is to progress from a model where the instructor challenges her students, to one where the students challenge each other and ideally, themselves. I have found that poorly defined expectations are the prime reason students are unable to make this transition in other courses. When faced with a challenging assignment, students tend to be so worried about deciphering the prompt and figuring out how to get every last point to boost their grade, that they miss the purpose of the assignment altogether. I address this issue by designing clear assignment prompts and rubrics that also encourage creative expression. This works best with iterative assessments on which students receive regular feedback throughout the semester. For example, students in my Medical Anthropology course build interactive websites that investigate illnesses that hold personal meaning to them. Beyond a basic set of requirements for each webpage, students are free to design their website in a way that they feel will best illustrate the value of Medical Anthropology to the general public. By creating a system for peer review and setting weekly deadlines, students can see how a real audience interprets their websites, and use that feedback to make continuous improvements. It also keeps them engaged with the assignment because they see it as an opportunity to explore something they already care about in a new and meaningful way. As an added bonus, this particular assignment also provides my students practice in the art of digital self-presentation. As a result of completing this assignment, my student can now create their own professional websites with the confidence of knowing how an academic audience will perceive their work.

As I continue to develop my teaching philosophy, I am constantly reminded that my students are capable of much more than they give themselves credit for. Likewise, I, too, must continue to challenge myself and cultivate confidence in my own abilities as an instructor. I have come a long way from being a teaching assistant, to lead instructor, to the supervisor of a suite of courses in my department, but there is always room to grow. From designing online courses to conducting interdisciplinary research on embedded course assessments, I thrive on tackling new situations that test my own pedagogical perspectives. I especially love working in collaboration with other faculty to brainstorm new ways to generate intellectual curiosity and excitement in the classroom. I look forward to seeking out similar opportunities in your program that will continue to challenge me, and help me cultivate the same level of confidence as a teacher that I envision from my students as learners.

Examples of Student Work

In my Introduction to Medical Anthropology Course, students were required to create a website examining an illness through multiple theoretical approaches addressed in the course. This project was hugely successful and proves that we can engage our students in theory and ethnography, even at a distance. Here are some examples of the websites my students created:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:

Student Evaluations

The following PDFs are student evaluations from my most recent teaching experiences: as instructor for ANP 270: Women and Health: Anthropological and International Perspectives (live lecture); lead instructor in ANP 204: Introduction to Medical Anthropology (online), and as a guest speaker in ANP201: Introduction to Sociocultural Diversity (live lecture).


TKD – ANP270 Lecture Student Evaluations

TKD – ANP204 Online Student Evaluations

TKD-ANP201 Guest Lecture Student Evaluations

Online Teaching

Online Teaching Experience

2014               Workshop leader for “Teaching Anthropology Online”, AAA conference, Washington D.C.

2014               Curriculum Developer for ISB 204: Applications in Biomedical Sciences (Online), MSU

2013               Developer/Consultant for Foundations of Science MOOC, Center for Integrative Studies, MSU

2010-2014      Online Course Assistant/Developer (10 courses) for Department of Anthropology, MSU

  • ANP 201: Sociocultural Diversity
  • ANP 202: Biocultural Evolution
  • ANP 203: Introduction to Archeology
  • ANP 204: Introduction to Medical Anthropology
  • ANP 236: Peace and Justice Studies
  • ANP 264: Great Discoveries in Archeology
  • ANP 330: Race, Ethnicity, and Nation
  • ANP 420: Language and Culture
  • ISS 215: Social Differentiation and Inequality
  • ISS 220: Time, Space and Change in Human Society

ANP 204: Introduction to Medical Anthropology

In 2010, I was hired by the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University to develop and instruct “ANP 204: Introduction to Medical Anthropology” Below is my video introduction for the course.

The following is the brief introduction to the field of Medical Anthropology written and narrated by me:

The following is a brief overview of the conceptual approaches covered in this course:


Teaching Anthropology in the Digital Age

Below is an article I published in General Anthropology about best practices for developing and delivering and online course:


I have worked with over a dozen students over the last three years to expand on my research and help them develop their own ethnographic projects. My mentoring philosophy is to hold my undergraduates to the same expectations of performance as I would any graduate student. They play an active role in designing research questions, collecting and analyzing data, and producing scholarly publications. For example, I am currently wrapping up a year long project with eight students investigating the digital presentation of pharmaceutical practices on social networking sites. We will be submitting two articles based on the results of this study to Social Science & Medicine and the Journal of Medical Internet Research this spring. Below are some testimonials from the students I have worked with:

Erin Mobley“During my sophomore year at Michigan State University, Taz guest lectured in my Social and Cultural Analysis in Anthropology class. Her enthusiasm and confidence in the subject matter she was teaching kept me engaged and interested in everything she had to say. As an undergraduate anthropology major, it was also very encouraging to see someone this excited and passionate about her work and research in the anthropology field. This little glimpse into Taz’s teaching style led me to enroll in her online summer class. I was very impressed with the organization and layout of the class. Taz made the material very understandable and the online exercises made it relatable to my own life. I found that I was actually excited to learn and be more involved in the class and would often share what learned with my friends and family. Although it was online, I felt as though I knew my classmates and my teacher better than in most of my live classes. After taking this class, my interest and love for anthropology grew exponentially and I began looking for opportunities to get involved. I emailed Taz to see if she had any advice or knew of any opportunities. She was very excited and willing to help. She told me about her research assistants, along with the work they were doing and soon she welcomed me aboard. I consider this research experience to be one of the most important and useful learning experiences I had during my undergraduate career. Taz helped me to understand the type of work that is involved in graduate school and methods for doing research. She took the time to get to know me, and my interests and helped me to formulate my career and graduate school goals. I have never had a teacher or mentor more dedicated and genuinely interested in helping her students reach their goals”.

–  Erin Mobley, Former Anthropology major, current graduate student in the University of Michigan School of Public Health

 Senior Profile Pic of Me_Send to Taz“Before I met Taz, I was a senior human biology student at MSU with no research experience. Meeting Taz was a blessing. I discovered her wonderful personality and exciting research when she was a guest lecture for ANP 370 in the spring of 2014. I later contacted her about research opportunities because I have a personal and professional interest in her anthropological research on drug abuse. Throughout summer 2014, Taz and I worked on two encyclopedia articles on Performance Enhancement in Professional Sports to be published by SAGE in 2015. I was ecstatic to have such an amazing opportunity to be published before I graduated with my Bachelors of Science degree. During this time, Taz made sure to not only check on in on my academic goals but also my personal life. Our professional and personal relationship quickly blossomed. Her generous advice and spirit always made my days less stressful. When I was at a roadblock in writing my personal statements, Taz helped me create a unique writing method that worked better for me. I have continued to use the method to this day. Working with Taz has provided me with many experiences which I am very thankful for. I look forward to further developing our professional and personal relationship for many years to come!”

Chelsea Stockman, Senior in Human Biology at Michigan State University

IMG_3335 My name is Bree Casper. I am a sophomore majoring in Anthropology at Michigan State University. In two short years when I graduate I plan to attend graduate school. I hope to one-day work as an Anthropologist, specifically in Applied Anthropology, using my skill set to help improve relations for governments, NGO’s, or even advocacy groups. I have been working with Taz for about six months on the Production chapter of her dissertation. I have been helping collect information about pharmaceutical companies and ADHD drugs from these companies. We are also currently working on an analysis of pharmaceutical advertisement techniques. I decided to work with Taz after I heard one of her lectures. I was actually contemplating changing my major completely the day Taz came and lectured to my class. She was very engaging and excited about what she was talking about, and that made me excited about the subject. She also mentioned a side of anthropology that I had not previously heard of, Applied Anthropology. What she described was exactly what I wanted to do; she just put a name to it for me. At the end of her presentation she mentioned she was looking for more research assistant, and now here I am! Taz is honestly one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. Every meeting we have I walk away feeling excited about my future. She has such passion for what she does, that it’s contagious. She is also a great teacher. Still young in my anthropological career there are a lot of things and theories I still need to learn, Taz always takes complicated information, and simplifies it in a way I can understand. It’s really great because I am learning things I haven’t even been taught in my anthropology classes yet. I’m also learning a lot of skills that I will apply later in my career. I’m learning more about professional writing and participating firsthand in research. As a research assistant, one would assume that I’m doing a favor for Taz, but I feel like Taz is doing me a favor. I’m learning so much, and I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing woman!

– Bree Casper, Sophomore Anthropology Major at Michigan State University

IMG_0517-1 ” I am a recent graduate from Michigan State University with a degree in Human Biology and it wasn’t until my final semester at MSU that I came in contact with Taz while taking Medical Anthropology. Her level of passion and concern for us as students to learn and benefit from the material was unbelievable and something I am very grateful for. When she reached out to us following completion of the semester to assist in research I didn’t think twice. First, Taz explained her dissertation and from there it was up to me to decide which area I felt most comfortable assisting. I found this strategy to truly benefit the research and myself, making the process extremely enjoyable. Through the many intriguing sections of her research I decided to work with analyzing interviews with prescription Adderall users. From the first interview analysis to the last, Taz was nothing short of excellent as a mentor, continuously assuring I was on the right track and always willing to help. Her positive attitude toward the material and concern to create comfort level for the students assisting her proves her love and true belonging in the field of Anthropology. Taz has also taken the time to get to know me on a more personal level while offering advice toward my pursuit of dental school. Throughout my time attending Michigan State University, I can easily say I never came across another professor or teaching assistant with the passion and self-belonging to their field quite like Taz shows day after day and I look forward to seeing where this takes her down the road!”

– Justin Blazejewski, Former Human Biology major at Michigan State University, currently applying to dental schools

IMG_1092“Taz has been an incredible mentor, research director, and instructor. I have had the privilege of working with Taz for almost two years, and am constantly amazed by her insight and advice as I begin to navigate the medical school application process, and a career in public service. As an instructor, Taz facilitated lively discussions and was always willing to spend additional time answering pressing questions. Given my positive experience with Taz in ANP 204 Introduction to Medical Anthropology, I was eager to join her team as a research assistant. As a research director, Taz provided a clear description of responsibilities and was always receptive to new ideas and opinions regarding the project. In short, any University would be extremely fortunate for Taz to join their faculty.”

-Nick Flaga, Former Human Biology major at Michigan State University, current intern at the White House, Washington, D.C.

More testimonials coming soon…


Awards for Service

2012                   Disciplinary Leadership Fellow, The Graduate School, MSU
Professional Affiliations

Chair                Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Study Group, Society for Medical Anthropology

Member           Science, Technology and Medicine Interest Group, Society for Medical Anthropology

Member           Mental Health Special Interest Group, Society for Medical anthropology

Member           Society for Medical Anthropology

Member           Digital Anthropology Special Interest Group, American Anthropological Association

Member           American Anthropological Association

Member           Society for the Social Studies of Science

Member           Medical Anthropology Student Association


Current Professional Committee Work

SMA Policy Committee, Society for Medical anthropology (Chair: Mark Nichter)

SMA Future of Publishing Committee (Chair: Linda Garro)

Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco Study Group

For the last three years, I have had the honor to serve as chair of the Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Study Group, of the Society for Medical Anthropology. During this time, I have conducted four business meetings organized and chaired six conference panels, facilitated a graduate student paper prize and launched/managed a brand new website for our group. This has been, by far, one of the most rewarding experiences I have had a graduate student.

ADT Study Group Mission Statement: The mission of the Alcohol, Drug, and Tobacco Study Group (ADTSG) is to facilitate communication and collaboration among group members for the anthropological study of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pharmaceuticals and other psychoactive substance use across cultures. We encourage the exchange of ideas on these issues through organized conference presentations; interest group meetings; online blog posts and resources; social gatherings; and publications.  The ADT Study Group is particularly interested in promoting collaboration between undergraduate and graduate students, junior and senior faculty, as well as researchers within and outside of anthropology proper.

To contact ADTSG, send an email to

Visit our website at:



My experience with rowing began my freshman year at UC Irvine where I was recruited as a coxswain. I can honestly say that crew is by far the most exciting and rewarding sport I have participated in. It has contributed significantly to my work ethic individually and as a team player. Balancing 5:00am practices, a rigorous workout schedule, and travel, with academic life has taught me dedication, time management and commitment to a common goal. Imagine commanding and motivating eight athletes, twice your size, through the most painful seven minutes of their life… all while steering a boat, keeping track of stroke rate, heeding the officials and making sure the coxswain next to you doesn’t come crashing into your lane. It is not surprising then that crew has enhanced my skills in leadership, communication, multi-tasking and working under pressure.

By far the most valuable lesson I have learned from my college experience in crew is to focus on the success of the boat as a whole. One of my biggest challenges comes from my biggest strength: being detail-oriented. I pride myself in being able to take control of most situations I am thrown into and producing a well executed strategy for success. However, every rower has their own set of strengths and challenges along with an individual set of expectations they have for me as a coxswain. The key is to find a rhythm that can keep the boat moving without getting caught up on controlling every aspect of the stroke. In a way, this has significantly influenced my teaching philosophy which you can read more about on this site.

After college, I went on to coach the MSU club crew. Coaching college students is much different from coxing them and requires a separate mentality. It is more hands off – my success comes from my ability to create an independent crew who can take everything I have taught them and make it work out on the water without me. In many ways, my teaching has become a fine balance between coxing (commanding my classroom) and coaching (trusting my students to take the skills they have learned and apply them). These days I still offer private coaching when I have time and run a learn-to-row program for the Lansing Rowing Club in the summers.