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An Interview with my Boss!

In which Greta chats with Holly, her boss at Admissions, who is also from Vermont and also majored in Latin American Studies at Carleton (wild world)

In which Greta chats with Holly, her boss at Admissions, who is also from Vermont and also majored in Latin American Studies at Carleton (wild world)

Meet Holly Buttrey, Carleton Class of 2014 and Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions.

If you’re ever wondering who supervises us bloggers, it’s Holly. She also represents Carleton Admissions in New England, China, and Latin America. Her job involves lots of traveling (in normal times) and, yes, reading applications. If you live in any of these regions, chances are, you’ll talk to her at some point!

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Holly through my student job in Admissions. She’s a wonderful human being—and it turns out we have lots in common! We both came from Vermont to Carleton with an interest in Environmental Studies, and we both somehow chose to major in Latin American Studies, instead. I wanted to write a blog post about the major, and I thought, what better way than by hearing about it from Holly?

We ended up chatting for almost an hour about classes, majors, comps, grad school, working in Admissions, and more. Read on for a glimpse into our conversation!

holly and greta on zoom

To start out, what was your favorite class or professor?

My favorite professor, the one who got me into Latin American Studies, is Andrew Fisher. I was placed into Survival and Conquest in Indigenous Mexico with him as my Argument and Inquiry seminar, and that class was incredible. Everything about it was brand new for me. I knew that college would be a “new things” kind of place, but I didn’t totally realize how new it would be. It prompted me to take courses in what was called the African and African American Studies department, now Africana Studies, as well.

holly on ocs #1
Holly in BC

I then went and studied abroad for Environmental Studies with Round River Conservation in British Columbia, living and working with the Tlingit First Nation. I really didn’t like the science part. But what was really exciting was hearing from Tlingit elders, connecting with Tlingit land use, and why it was important in terms of climate change. This Indigenous understanding, the sociological and anthropological approach of how people interact with each other and interact with their land was really cool.

So I was like, I really like studying people, languages are super cool, how can I combine this? Andrew was my advisor, and he said, try sociology, or SOAN. I loved my history courses, and I ended up doing a concentration (now a minor) in Africana Studies. But to me, the language piece was also really important. I didn’t want to stop at Spanish 204. Latin American Studies allowed me to use all of that to look at place.

How was it taking upper level Spanish classes after going through the language sequence at Carleton?

I got my butt kicked a lot at Carleton academically. Spanish writing was particularly challenging, because when you speak, you can speak around things, but in writing you need to know the exact word. I went to the Language Assistants a lot, and my Spanish-speaking friends would look over my essays.

But also, I learned to be willing to make mistakes. In general, Carls are very good at things, and we tend to be perfectionists. For me, part of the language thing was being tossed in. You can’t hide, because you’re always being called upon to speak in another language. It was an opportunity to learn about myself as a learner.

You’ve told me that there was only one other Latin American Studies major in your year. What was it like being in such a small program, and how did you find a community without the built-in support that, say, Biology at Carleton or other big majors have?

I thought it was awesome. We had a 2:1 faculty-student ratio, and I had two of the four faculty as my comps advisors. It was so much attention! Every class I had in Latin American Studies was 15 students or smaller. I had classes of four, or nine, and I loved that.

I never felt that I didn’t have a community. Part of that was that I was a varsity athlete at Carleton, and I sang in an a capella group, and I was involved in a number of clubs. I wouldn’t recommend my approach necessarily, but it meant that I had communities outside my major, which I do think was a benefit.

At Carleton, every senior does a capstone project in their major called “comps.” What did you do for yours?

holly submitting comps
Holly submitting comps

It was called, “Hip Hop in Cuba: the Underground Sphere for Expressive Youth.” So, hip hop is decidedly racialized. It was created essentially as an outlet for Black men to talk about oppression. But in Cuba, there’s this attitude of racelessness that I could not understand.

So I went on a St. Olaf program to Cuba, and while we were in each city I would search out rap shows and hip hop shows. I did a bunch of interviews, I took photos, I followed groups on Facebook, they gave me USBs with some of their songs, I talked to every taxi driver. Ultimately, my comps was: here’s a literature review, here is my experience, here is where I find tension, and my question is, why are there no women?

holly in cuba
Holly in Cuba

After that, I know that you went to grad school at the University of Texas at Austin. How did that continue what you studied at Carleton?

I was a Global Studies masters student at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Within global policy, you pick a concentration, and mine was Latin America. I also took Portuguese when I was at Carleton, and Texas has an incredible Portuguese center. I was able to use their resources to continue self-studying Portuguese.

How did you get back to Carleton working in the Admissions Office?

When I graduated from Carleton, I thought, I’m going to take one year, and then go get my PhD. Ultimately, I came and worked for Carleton Admissions office, because they had a one-year opening. At the end of that first year, I got asked by the former Dean of Admissions if I was interested in taking over international recruitment for the Spanish-speaking world, so really, Mexico to Chile. That is how I stayed at Carleton for another two years.

After grad school, it turned out that Carleton had two openings. I’ve been so fortunate to continue at Carleton with the international recruitment side of things. I get to interact with students, as you know, which I think is essential. The whole point of admissions is forming those relationships. And my heart sits with international students, undocumented, DACA, and unDACAmented students. That’s what I’m really excited about.

What do you feel has changed about the college since you’ve attended?

One change I’m really excited about is the accessibility of buildings. That was something I did not recognize as a student until I broke my foot, and could not get to class. I had a class in Laird, and I was like, I can’t get there. How has it a) taken me three years to realize this, and b) this is also the building where our president’s office is. What are we doing? So I’m really glad that accessibility plans are coming to fruition.

What has held constant?

holly at machu picchu
Holly at Machu Picchu…

The students and people I met at Carleton when I was a student were awesome. My peers stretched my mind every day. They taught me new things, inside and outside of the classroom. My professors were unwilling to let me be static. And that’s something I still see.


greta at Machu Picchu
…and Greta at Machu Picchu!

We say this a lot in Admissions, but it’s true: you do not trip and fall into Northfield, Minnesota. It’s an active choice. And the students who continue to choose Carleton are amazing. So what has stayed the same is just incredibly interesting 18-22 year-olds who end up on this campus. It is a privilege to work with and read the applications of those students.

Thanks so much to Holly for her wonderful words!!

Greta is a proud Vermonter and Carl who’s getting the best of both worlds by doing school from home. She has weathered the pandemic by writing constantly, playing piano, and spending time outdoors. Then eating lots of chocolate. She wants to learn everything, but she might major in Latin American Studies and minor in Creative Writing. Meet the other bloggers!