December 27, 2018

PORTSMOUTH – A popular class at Great Bay Community College is helping students differentiate their passions from their passing interests so they can make smarter decisions about their careers. Introduction to Ethnography: The World of Work, which the college introduced last year, approaches the working life as a cultural system of norms, said Dr. Aimee Huard, chair of social science at Great Bay. Students explore careers through the cultural meaning entrenched in workplace expectations and values.

Students use anthropological research techniques to evaluate myths and stereotypes and gain insight into why work matters and what motivates people who are successful in their careers. Through their own research based on interviews with working professionals, students have an easier time seeing the difference between a job and a career, Huard said.

“Students often will just pick a major based on what interests them at the moment and not necessarily what will suit them well for a career. This class helps them identify interests and how those interests translate into a career they might not have considered. In the vast majority of time, by the end of this course, 85% of the students know what they want to do, have confirmed a career path, or have determined that they should not pursue what they thought they wanted to,” she said.

Based on a similar class that Huard introduced at Nashua Community College, the four-credit class is required for all students in liberal arts who have not selected a concentration or major. It replaces a previous first-year seminar class. It also satisfies a Social Science elective, and its 4 credits are eligible for transfer to the University of New Hampshire through a liberal arts pathway.

The goal of the class is to help students make informed decisions about majors and career paths and plan their educations as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Huard sees many students who choose a major without giving full consideration to all it involves and what a career or job in that field entails. By the time students decide to try something else, they’ve made an investment of tuition and coursework, she said.

The class examines the working life in the context of contemporary dynamics of disruptions, uncertainty, innovation and diversity. Through their assignments, students reflect on their own interests, passions and motivations so they more easily translate their personal likes and dislikes into a career, Huard said.

Ethnography refers to the study of people and cultures where the researcher makes observations from the perspective of the subject of the study. For this class, students interview journalists, politicians, chemical engineers, computer coders, educators and others. They ask about details of the job and the skills required to do it well, as well as personal passions and motivations. They talk about salaries, working hours, job security and other issues that influence happiness and longevity in a career. 

Taylor Italia, a liberal arts major, said Ethnography of Work has helped her think more holistically about her life and career. “The class has made me think so much about my future, which I have always had a hard time with,” said Italia, who lives in Kensington. “I would describe it as one of those classes that isn’t textbook. It has taught me so much about the real world, “A lot of the work was based on conversation and what came out of that was thought provoking.” 

Because of the class, she is considering careers in journalism or fashion, which are subjects she hadn’t considered before.

She enrolled at Great Bay because it was an economical way to collect her general education credits while sorting out her major and careers options at her own pace without incurring what she calls “crazy debt.”  

Huard launched the class at Nashua Community College in 2016, loosely modeling it on a similar initiative at Guttman Community College in New York City and designing it to align with New Hampshire resources and careers. She set up the class at Great Bay in 2017, and joined the Great Bay faculty this academic year, moving to Portsmouth from Nashua. 

Students can learn more about the course at or by attending an Open House on January 19th from 4-6PM at the College’ Portsmouth or Rochester campuses.

Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth.  The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. The college’s second campus, the Advanced Technology & Academic Center is now open in Rochester offering academic courses and a degree program in Advanced Composites Manufacturing.   For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit

Original Story: Seacoastonline –