20 Under 40: Michele Statz
Michele Statz, 37, Duluth
What do you do? (job, community involvement)
I am an anthropologist of law and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth.
How do you spend your free time?
I'm a big fan of running Duluth's great hills and family dance parties.
Tell us about an influential person in your life.
Kathryn Dudley is an anthropologist who wrote "Debt and Dispossession," a book about the 1980s farm crisis. My parents lost their farm when I was 5, and it was something we could never talk about as a family because there was so much grief around it. I read "Debt and Dispossession" in my 20s, and to have someone explain something that was so structurally complex and so deeply personal was like turning on a light bulb.
Because of that book, I believe that really good anthropology makes sense of political and economic forces that matter to the heart. It’s what motivates me every day.
Where is your favorite place in Duluth/Superior?
It’s not really a place, but the Misaabekong Ojibwe Language Immersion Program is easily my favorite part of being in Duluth. My daughter is enrolled in Misaabekong, and I can’t describe how meaningful her education has been to her or to our entire family. It is an incredible curriculum and a really amazing, committed community.
What have you learned in your time spent at home during the pandemic?
I don’t have a lot of time to reflect these days, but one thing that’s been hammered home is how much we all belong to each other. We all see how political and institutional forces try to deny this fact, but somehow that has made it even more humbling to observe how many people still express a sense of belonging or care.
It's also been an interesting time to be a parent. Anytime I see someone scramble to be socially distant on a trail or call out "hello" from behind a mask, I have a really stark opportunity to talk to our kids about caring for and honoring our neighbors — because that’s what people are doing for us. It’s a good antidote to so much fear and cynicism.