Matthew Margrave

"I've always been interested in how people interact in society and how we relate and connect to one another," says Matthew Margrave.

The soon-to-be anthropology graduate credits his degree for opening him up to other people’s experiences.

“I've felt like I've always been open, but now I understand how to be a more compassionate person,” he says.

Family roots

Margrave’s curiosity about the human condition was fostered by his upbringing. He grew up in Menifee, CA the second of four siblings in a multiracial family. He is the only one of his siblings who was not adopted.

"Family felt more like something that one created than something you were born into. Family was more about how people showed up in your life," he says.

This expansive view bred an openness to people and their differences. For him, it was normal to have deep relationships with someone who wasn’t related by blood. This perspective from an early age piqued Margrave's interest in human interactions and connections.

“I think my upbringing really sparked my interest in the social sciences. I've always been curious about how people are socialized, how they interact within society, and the ways we relate and connect to one another," he says.

A voracious student

Margrave arrived at UC Irvine two years ago as a transfer student from Mt. San Jacinto College in Riverside. He was admitted to every UC but one. His decision to become an Anteater was an intentional one due to the school's top-ranked anthropology program.

"Being able to study everything related to people all at once was really appealing," he says.

He’s drawn to how the discipline examines the intersections of human evolution, biology, society, culture and more. And at UCI, the program's cultural emphasis and the chance to collaborate closely with professors was too good to pass up.

UCI professor of anthropology and visual studies Roxanne Varzi first met Margrave as a student in her modern Iran course and has since become somewhat of a mentor to Margrave. Margrave would arrive early to class, which gave the two of them the opportunity to discuss novels and various topics over the course of the quarter.

"He is patient and speaks intentionally and always has something interesting to add to a conversation," Varzi says.

In many ways, Margrave is an ideal student who takes advantage of every opportunity to broaden his knowledge and experiences. For fun, he asked to sit in on Varzi’s anthropology of religion course and became one of the most active participants in class. He attended every extracurricular activity Varzi organized, whether it was a book reading or a field trip to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.

“He always managed to find transportation and friends,” Varzi says.

One quarter, Margrave enrolled in six classes at once. In retrospect, he admits that this might have been overly ambitious, yet he still performed well.

“I want to know everything. I know I can’t, but I want to learn as much as possible. When I find out about an interesting talk, I worry that if I don’t go, I might not ever get that knowledge anywhere else,” he says.

Margrave isn’t kidding. Not being able to attend a lecture on Jainism still haunts him to this day. To try to make up for it, he sought out the professor’s suggested reading and watched her lectures on YouTube.

Now in his final quarter at UCI, Margrave is busy working on his honors thesis in anthropology through which he’s “studying queer kink communities online, specifically how masculinity is fetishized among queer men,” he says.

Beyond academics

Margrave has devoted himself to UCI's community as an Anthropology Club officer, although scheduling has prevented him from being as present an officer as he would like, as a resident advisor for the Arroyo Vista dormitories, and as a College Corps fellow.

"I've seen the ins and outs of how you run a community, and all have provided me with a sense of community. I feel like I have a big support system," he says.

Through UCI’s College Corp, a new program which provides students with opportunities for internships, experiential learning, or community service, Margrave has volunteered for several non-profits including OC Habitats and Newport Bay Conservancy. The work has enabled him to engage with kids and adults from all over Orange County.

“Not only have I been connected to the UCI circle, but I've learned a lot more about the broader community,” he says.

A year of exploration

After graduation, Margrave is jumping into an immersive gap year before furthering his education. Starting in September, he’ll spend four months attending Disney College, an internship program at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. During his time in the program, he'll be employed at either a Disney theme park or resort while also enrolled in business-related classes on the side.

Margrave has also applied to the online Master of Arts in Entertainment Industry Management program at Cal State, Northridge where he’ll learn about the entertainment industry from inside experts.

Margrave’s vision extends beyond his “gap year.” While working with College Corp, he discovered that environmental nonprofits are often the least funded.

“I want to see if I can be a part of figuring out how to change that,” he says.

This has sparked an interest in potentially pursuing an MBA so that he can help nonprofits boost their funding.

Ultimate goal

After gaining some work experience, Margrave eventually hopes to pursue a Ph.D. and teach at the college level.

“I want to give back by teaching one day, but what's between now and teaching is still something I'm trying to figure out,” he says.

Margrave's interest in humanity has been fostered by his UCI anthropology experience. As graduation approaches, he continues to be guided by intellectual passion and forming meaningful bonds. He’s in no rush to check arbitrary boxes of "success." He’d rather follow his passions and form meaningful connections.

“If you only focus your whole time on getting the best grade, internship, or into the best grad school, then you might lose out on the people around you,” he says. “By talking to them you could realize that you're on a similar journey and maybe make a friend for life.”

-Jill Kato for UCI School of Social Sciences

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