Born in Chicago Illinois on October 27, 1936, Sue-Ellen Jacobs went to various schools as her family moved around the U.S. during and after World War II. She worked as a registered nurse for a number of years before deciding to enter graduate studies in anthropology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she met and worked with Professor Omer Stewart as he was finishing work on the Tri-Ethnic Project. Professor Stewart suggested she look at the Society for Applied Anthropology as a place where she would find “like minded” people using anthropological knowledge, methods, and theory to help solve human problems. Sue-Ellen joined SfAA during her second year as a graduate student. Professor Dorothea V. Kaschube was her graduate advisor and dissertation committee chair. Professor Jacobs was awarded her Ph.D. in 1970.
Sue-Ellen taught at Sacramento State College, University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) and the University of Washington, retiring at UW in 2004 with the title “Professor Emerita of Women Studies.” She immediately retired to New Mexico to continue the work she has done for over 30 years with one of the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos; also teaching part-time and working as co-Director of the Northern Pueblos Institute at Northern New Mexico College still having a great time doing applied anthropology and learning to be a farmer on 2.2 acres of land.
Sue-Ellen served on the SfAA Executive Committee, the Malinowski Award Committee, and the Margaret Mead Award Committee before being elected to the office of President (serving as the first 2 year President for SfAA). She also was active in the American Anthropological Association as a member of the Ethics Committee.
Sue-Ellen was instrumental in introducing the gender alternating policy for the SfAA presidency (male candidates one term followed by female candidates the next). Along with presidents Harland Padfield and Ted Downing, she also led the drive to maintain the organizational and financial independence of the SfAA during a period when both were threatened.
Sue-Ellen’s applied work has ranged from Social Impact Assessment of planned water and other U.S. governmental “development” projects; urban and rural health issues (including best ways to increase appropriate health care services within a Midwest African American community); land and water rights issues in the American Southwest; applied sociolinguistics; and preservation and restoration of specific indigenous languages in the American Southwest.