Alumni Profile: Kiran Herbert BA ’11
Kiran May Herbert BA ’11
Major: Sociology and anthropology
Hometown: Portland, Oregon—I’m a Third Culture Kid who moved around a lot because my parents are diplomats, but I was born in Portland.
Current work: Homepage editor/content promotion coordinator at Thrillist Media Group and freelance writer
In a recent New York Times article where you served as a Portland tour guide, Frugal Traveler columnist Seth Kugel mentioned that he’s working with you on a project. Can you tell us more about it?
I am essentially Seth’s research assistant, so for the last year I’ve been helping him plan his Frugal Traveler trips. He initially hired me to help him with research for his upcoming book about travel in the age of Trip Advisor. He’s actually taking a hiatus from the column for a couple of months to work exclusively on the book, so I’ve been helping him by reading extensively on the topics he plans to cover, challenging his ideas, finding people to interview, and generally filling in wherever he needs me. It’s a really fun project that will ultimately benefit anyone who does travel, or who wants to travel, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
What drew you to attend Lewis & Clark?
I actually had already committed to attending another school when I came to Lewis & Clark on a whim during spring break of my senior year. My grandma lives literally down the street in Lake Oswego, making it an easy trip to justify. I visited on a sunny day, so the campus was really alive and beautiful. What really got me, however, were the students, who I found to be laid back, unique, and—for lack of a better word—cool. I was coming from a boarding school in the Northeast and Lewis & Clark presented an opportunity to be the person I always felt I was. There was also a substantial population of Third Culture Kids, and the thought of being near my family and in Portland was appealing.
I understand that you were part of an Exploration and Discovery section focused on travel and travel writing. Did this or any other courses, faculty, or experiences at Lewis & Clark influence the path you’ve taken since graduating?
Yes, I honestly loved my Exploration and Discovery experience. Associate Professor of Japanese Bruce Suttmeier taught that course, which undoubtedly had an influence on me. Since my parents are diplomats and I’ve been traveling my whole life, I’m drawn to the genre of travel writing and to all the different forms it can take. When I started working for Seth, I actually emailed Bruce to get his syllabus in order to jog my memory. I’ve been reading through a lot of it again, and it has been very helpful.
The course that impacted me most was Themes in Religious Studies with former Professor of Religious Studies Alan Cole. Its structure and topics had a profound influence on the way I saw the world and had me writing every week. Alan sent me an email before I graduated with the suggestion that I pursue either policy or journalism, and needless to say, I took his advice. I got my master’s degree in cultural reporting and criticism from New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism in 2013.
Being a sociology and anthropology major was great preparation for being a journalist. I found the department to be really encouraging of individual interests, and every class I took was varied yet laced with underlying disciplinary themes. I don’t know of any other school that combines sociology and anthropology into one major, which seems absurd because they undoubtedly complete one another. Having to write a thesis was my single best educational experience, and I hope to continue work on my thesis as my career progresses.
I also studied abroad in India, which fit in nicely with my major, minor, and interests as a writer. The experience was challenging on a lot of levels, but I’m ultimately really happy that I decided to do it.
What moment of your undergraduate years is the most memorable, that you’d like to share?
I loved college and I loved living in Portland; so much so that I hope to make it back one day. One memory that stands out was a trip I took the summer after my first year with College Outdoors. It was an insanely cheap, three-week trip to Utah. I signed up for it on a whim, paid with money I’d saved, and ended up having such an incredible time. I fell in love with our national parks on that trip, really started to understand the water issues we’re going to be facing as global warming progresses, rappelled down canyons for the first time in my life, spent every day in a beautiful setting, and every night sleeping under a sky full of stars. I also made friends who I’m still close with to this day. I went back about two years ago in the winter, as I was driving from national park to national park, and that part of the country is still one of my favorites. Also, three weeks is still the longest I’ve gone without showering.
Are there skills you acquired while at Lewis & Clark that apply to your current work?
I use the research and writing skills I developed while at Lewis & Clark in all the writing I do on my own time, and my familiarity with data from my days as a sociology and anthropology major has definitely made me comfortable with Google Analytics and dealing with other readership data right off the bat. Mostly though, Lewis & Clark really fosters an environment where you’re encouraged to ask questions and employ dialectical thinking. I really value that.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to current or future Lewis & Clark students?
Make time to study abroad, even if it’s in the summer. Spend as much time in those Oregon woods as possible, and make sure you get out and explore Portland. Also, you should probably take Fundamentals of Movement.