About Me, Olga Stavrakis
I have been living in Minnesota since 1969 but originally, I was born in Ukraine during WWII to Slavic and Greek parents. As refuges, we travelled by all kinds of unusual and desperate conveyances across much of war torn Europe arriving in Athens in 1950, only to find that there was no escaping the war except by coming to the US.
I have undergraduate degrees in History and Geology from the University of Delaware with an emphasis on Classics. While in graduate school at the U of Penn I met and married Dennis E. Puleston (Puleston.org), a fellow student, who was already working in Maya archaeology in Tikal and ended up working at the magnificent Ancient Maya site of Tikal in the jungles of Guatemala.
Unraveling the secrets of the ancient Maya led to the study of present day tropical forest agriculture in remote Maya villages in the Yucatan Peninsula where I lived and worked for several years with my family, which by then included our two children. I completed my Ph.D. on the effects of agricultural change upon the nutrition and health of indigenous women and children in tropical Central America. Based on that work, a history and photos of my San Antonio Rio Hondo, my research village are posted in another section.
In 1978 my Anthropological career came to an abrupt end with the unexpected death of my husband. I had worked outside academics while Denny held the formal tenure track position, and the academic world was unrelenting to women who had children in those days. However, a number of interesting opportunities to work with international development agencies came my way and I got contracts with the World Bank, USAID and the UN to design and evaluate projects in Belize, Mexico, Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands, India and Bangladesh.
When I could no longer avoid the demands of high school for my children, I returned to Minnesota and started my own business, a food testing laboratory which provided food safety programs for supermarkets around the US. In 2003, I sold the business and accepted an invitation to lecture on cruise ships, which has turned out to be my new career taking me back to my first love, History and Anthropology.