Student Profile: Karlie Tessmer

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking them a series of questions related to their background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Karlie Tessmer, a M.A. student at Simon Fraser University.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

I chose to study anthropology because of the methods that are employed by anthropology. I am particularly drawn to ethnography and the ability to provide voice to those who are often unheard, misjudged, and silenced. Ethnography allows researchers to provide an accessible outlet for our interlocutors to share their stories while also giving space for the larger contexts and social situations our participants face. Anthropology as a discipline enables me to learn about the interconnections between people and how those people function within a given community.

How does your work overlap with alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research? 

Currently my research examines what “support” means in supportive housing in 2nd stage transitional housing in the lower mainland of Vancouver. My work overlaps with alcohol, drugs, and tobacco as my research site is a harm reduction building, and many of the women I work with either have or had issues with substance use. While my work does not specifically focus on how alcohol, drugs, and tobacco impact the women, these substances play an important role in the overall lived experiences of my interlocutors. In addition, their substance use or recovery of substance use informs what types of support they might need and/or expect to receive as they move through the housing continuum.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

Following my graduate program, I hope to gain employment as a social planner with the City of Vancouver. I am particularly interested in working in areas such as housing/homelessness, family programming, and harm reduction.

How do you foresee harm reduction informing your future work?

I see harm reduction being a core element in my future work as a social planner, especially because I am focused on Vancouver’s housing crisis. In the lower mainland of Vancouver, a disproportionate number of people who are either houseless or underhoused also suffer from substance use issues. Harm reduction – particularly in relation to Housing First approaches – will be an important component to working with this population if my work is to have any meaningful impact. I hope to carry forward my learnings of harm reduction as a way to advocate for Housing First approaches rather than the Continuum of Care, which is Vancouver’s current housing model. 

If you are an anthropology student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG’s Chair, Breanne Casper, at for more information!