Kate Schuler-WALSH '08, Antiquities Analyst

Ever since she was a student at The Ellis School, Kate Schuler-WALSH '08 knew she wanted an internationally-focused career. So she wasted no time after graduation and made the leap across the pond to study at the University of St Andrews. After receiving her diploma in Social Anthropology and Arabic, Kate moved to Amman, Jordan, to work with Syrian refugees at a non-governmental organization focused on community empowerment and sustainable economic growth. Fast forward a few years and Kate was back in the States receiving her master's degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University where she concentrated on terrorism and sub-state violence. Her global experience and expanding expertise then took her to a technology firm in Washington, D.C. where she developed analytical approaches for identifying illicit activity on the deep web. Now located in Manhattan, NY, Kate works at the New York County District Attorney’s Office where she investigates antiquities trafficking and works to repatriate stolen and looted artifacts to their rightful owners.
Years at Ellis:Grade 6 to Grade 12
Occupation:Antiquities Trafficking Analyst
Education:M.A. Security Studies, Georgetown University; B.A. Social Anthropology & Arabic, University of St. Andrews

How did you get into your line of work? What does your typical day look like?
My career has been focused on the intersection of culture and national security. I’ve also always had a strong interest in cultural heritage issues in particular, so investigating antiquities trafficking was a perfect fit. Every day in law enforcement is different. Depending on the case, I could be speaking with a witness, gathering and analyzing evidence, recovering the stolen antiquities, or repatriating them.

Why did you decide to study internationally and live abroad after Ellis? How does your time overseas influence your career now?
I knew that I wanted an internationally focused career, so it just made sense to start it overseas. I started studying Arabic at St Andrews, and after I graduated I knew that if I really wanted to learn the language then I would need to move to the Middle East. Living in Scotland and Jordan had a remarkable and lasting impression on me. The experiences granted me a broader perspective and strengthened my interest in working on security policies that are inclusive, progressive, and make the world a safer place.

Do you have a mentor? How has that relationship benefited you professionally? Can you tell me about him or her?
I stay in close touch with my professors from Georgetown who have influenced me in various ways both personally and professionally. They have advised me on everything from how to build a career in national security to how to write a spy novel. In addition to forging those relationships while in school, I encourage all Ellis students to not be afraid to reach out to people they find interesting or inspiring. You’d be amazed at the responses you get to cold calls.  

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most meaningful in your career.
While I loved my graduate program at Georgetown and learned a tremendous amount, I was disappointed with its lack of focus on right-wing terrorism, including white supremacy and violent misogynists. After I graduated, I worked with the administration on ways the program could do better. They eventually expanded the curriculum to include more courses on domestic terrorism and added additional resources for female and non-white students to address concerns.
For Ellis students reading this: is there any wisdom you want to pass on to them? What do you want them to know?
Be bold and resilient. The Ellis School is an incredible place where no one questions your worth or value as a young woman. The rest of the world is not as kind. Don’t forget that you’ve earned your place at every table you sit at. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

How did your Ellis education influence and guide you after graduation?
One of the best things about Ellis was how supportive the faculty were of our passions. I never felt like my interest in art history or classics was any less valid or worthwhile than students more engaged in science or art. I honestly don’t think I would be working in my current field if I didn’t have teachers like Dr. Jordan or Dr. Bedell encouraging me to pursue my interests.
What do you think are the advantages of The Ellis School’s all-girls environment?
Honestly, being a teenage girl can be an uncomfortable and awkward thing. The all-girls environment let us learn and grow in a safe space. We were allowed to be curious and passionate without questioning our worth or doubting ourselves. That experience builds a steely resolve and instills in us a confidence rivaling that of mediocre men.

We often talk about girls using their voice at Ellis, what does that mean to you? How do you use your voice? And how did you gain the agency to do so?
The world tells girls to take up the least amount of space possible—literally and figuratively. To me, using our voices means reclaiming that space. I have a very low tolerance for male nonsense so one of the ways I use my voice is by protesting every microaggression or offensive turn of phrase. I don’t remember when I learned to say, “that’s not funny,” or “stop,” but they are useful phrases that women should practice every day. I’ve also always felt empowered to use my voice—partially because of an all-girls education from Ellis and partially because of the many privileges that I bear. Because of that, I also try to listen and amplify the voices of those less privileged than me.

What is the most important lesson you learned at The Ellis School?
That women are powerful. To seek out and create all-women spaces. To listen to, empower, and believe women.

How do you spend your free time?
I read a lot and practice martial arts, especially Krav Maga. I am also an armchair detective and will eagerly discuss cold case theories with anyone who shows the slightest passing interest.  

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Curious, determined, and sassy. Though if you check the yearbook from 2008, you will find that my superlative was ‘most opinionated.’ I think it still fits!