VOL. 132 | NO. 202 | Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Steele Joins Southern Growth Studio’s Anthropology Team
By Kate Simone
April Steele has joined Southern Growth Studio as a business anthropologist, responsible for collecting and analyzing data to evaluate existing and potential products and services. Steele’s hire comes as the Memphis-based innovation consulting firm grows its applied anthropology practice. Using qualitative social research methods like ethnography, the anthropology team steers the innovation process, conducting primary research to distill and communicate key insights to clients.
Hometown: Memphis, by way of Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Experience: Four years’ experience in nonprofit program evaluation, grant writing and applied social research.
I have a BA in sociology and an MA in applied anthropology, both from the University of Memphis. In graduate school I studied urban anthropology and community development, working on a wide variety of real-world projects and learning how to use social research to solve the complex, interrelated issues facing our city.
After graduating, I was hired on at Latino Memphis, where I worked for over three years as the director of evaluation and strategy. There, I developed and implemented data collection and management strategies to improve organizational performance, evaluating impact and ensuring that programs and initiatives aligned with Latino Memphis’ mission.
What talent do you wish you had? I wish I were more artistic or musically inclined; I would love to be able to paint or play the piano! I have a lot of close friends who are artists (my husband included) and would really appreciate being able to express myself more creatively.
Who has had the greatest influence on you and why? Professionally, two people have really shaped my growth: My academic adviser in grad school, Stan Hyland, and the executive director of Latino Memphis, Mauricio Calvo. Both Stan and Mauricio believed in my potential and gave me a lot of room to chart my own path. Mauricio is a really innovative leader and saw the value of bringing an anthropologist to his team early on. Even though I was just starting out in my career, he gave me a lot of autonomy in my role and trusted my judgment regarding the work of the organization. Because of that, I was given so many opportunities to learn and grow professionally.
What attracted you to Southern Growth Studio? I first learned about Southern Growth Studio a few years ago, when I attended the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp, a three-day immersive introduction to human-centered design thinking (co-founded by Michael Graber, managing partner and co-founder of the Studio). I saw a lot of parallels between design thinking and ethnography, especially its focus on empathy and the value of deep, meaningful interactions with people. I was really excited to find out that there was an agency like the Studio using these methods to help bring more of the human element into the business world. I was also really attracted to the Studio’s work culture; it’s a very collaborative, innovative environment. No two projects are the same!
What are your goals in your new position? I would love to eventually grow the Studio’s nonprofit engagements; I think our services would be hugely beneficial to organizations that want to assess program impact or innovate new services from a client-centered perspective.
Tell us a little about Southern Growth’s applied anthropology practice and how it works with clients. Our ethnography team now team consists of myself and our lead anthropologist, Sarah Donovan. We look at each specific engagement to understand our client’s goals, and develop a research plan to gather lots of data, often working with end users to understand how customers interact with a specific brand or product in the real world.
We then bring all this data back to the Studio team for analysis, looking for overarching themes and common needs, desires, frustrations, etc. These insights are then combined with market research and other information to generate consumer insights, product and service innovations, and brand strategies.
What kind of insights come out of it? Ethnography is very exploratory; we often say that this type of research uncovers the unarticulated needs and desires of customers – whether that be consumers, donors, employees or competitors. Often, these insights are completely unexpected, generating fresh new perspectives for growth.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? I’m really proud of my work at Latino Memphis. In the three years I was there, our team successfully tripled our organizational budget and staff, growing and adapting our programs to better serve the growing immigrant community in Memphis.
What do you most enjoy about your work? I love learning about and interacting with so many different people, and working on a wide variety of projects. I also love the “lighting” moments. There’s an element of faith involved in qualitative research, but there’s always this moment when you’re interviewing someone or analyzing data and some great nugget of truth emerges. Those moments are the most rewarding.
If you could give one piece of advice to young people, what would it be? Question everything! Learn to think critically by practicing curiosity, skepticism and humility; it will make you hugely adaptable to any new project or environment.
Leigh Anne Pickup of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has been selected as a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Pickup is an assistant professor and assistant director of clinical education in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies in UTHSC’s College of Medicine. She has been a physician assistant since 2003 and joined UTHSC in 2016.
The Greater Memphis Chamber has named the 2017-2018 executive board members for SoundCheck, its young professionals council. They are: Caleb Park, associate at Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors, chairman; Brooke Jones, senior engineer at FedEx Express, vice chair and membership committee chair; Schuyler Dalton, program developer at AgLaunch, and Javon McKinnon, commercial real estate adviser at Southern Properties, social committee co-chairs; Beth Wilson, public relations manager at inferno, marketing committee chair; and Howard Summers, commercial insurance agent at Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance, Memphis Clean by 2019 chair.
Ellen Rolfes, executive director of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Awareness Foundation, has been named to the board of the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice. Former Mayor A C Wharton Jr., owner of The Wharton Group and a strategic consultant to the ACE Awareness Foundation, was named to CTIPP’s advisory committee.
The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association has announced its 2017 A.A. Latting Awards recipients, which will be honored at the 51st annual Barrister’s Ball and Scholarship Award Banquet on Nov. 11. The 2017 honorees are: Laurice E. Smith, Shelby County government, A.A. Latting Award – Community Service; Mark A. Allen, senior counsel, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital/ALSAC, A.A. Latting Award – Legal Service; and Amber Floyd, senior associate, Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP, President’s Award.
The Departments of Social Work and Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research at the University of Memphis have been awarded a $1.9 million, four-year Health Resources and Services Administration Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program grant. The five faculty on the award team are Susan Neely-Barnes (principal investigator), Elena Delavega, Laura Taylor, Steve Zanskas and Chloe Lancaster. The award will establish the Mid-South Integrated Behavioral Health Training Initiative.