Meet Alumna Elina Cate Griggs

Elina Cate (SAG-AFTRA, AEA, ASCAP) has been working in the entertainment industry since childhood. While based in Los Angeles, she had many roles in film (feature / independent), TV, print/editorials, and music videos. Elina has performed in musical theatre, plays, and ballets in LA, NYC, Chicago, and Phoenix. She is trained in Vaganova ballet technique and in contemporary dance. She is an experienced choreographer who also teaches ballet. Elina continues to work as an acting coach, primarily for film actors. She is a singer/songwriter who also writes lyrics for other vocalists and independent films. Her solo work first received radio play in San Francisco circa 2008. Elina also enjoys photography and digital art. Her work has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine and sold at Urban Outfitters. She moved to Connecticut with her spouse, a recent doctoral graduate from UConn, and took an industry hiatus to pursue an academic degree.

As a UConn undergraduate, Elina was awarded numerous scholarships for academic excellence as well as generous grants that funded her independent research that examined the cultural construction of the grey wolf, focusing on its history, environmental impact, and current influence on policy and legislation. Elina became interested in the influence of myths and fictional narratives after noticing that themes and sensibilities from Western society’s archaic stories manifest throughout its present culture and public policies. This prompted the question – Do centuries old myths and fictional narratives influence present culture, public opinion, and policy? Elina focused on the grey wolf (Canis lupus) because it is one of the most demonized and persecuted predators in Western history, despite studies that repeatedly demonstrate: (1) people are killed and injured by domesticated animals at a far greater rate than wolves; (2) attempting to protect livestock by using lethal methods to control the number of wolves destabilizes wolf packs and, counter-intuitively, leads to more depredation; and (3) wolves, as apex predators, are vital to ecosystem robustness and function.

In her honors thesis project, Elina argued that fictional narratives can become embedded in cultural consciousness such that prevailing public opinion and policy become rigid and incapable of revision, even when presented with new empirical evidence. In her own summary, Elina stated, “My thesis is based on comparative analysis of historical and modern depictions of the wolf in European, Native American, and modern American sources. Analyzing European folklore, from classical mythology to the 19thcentury, as well as WWII propaganda and a multitude of other modern popular culture representations, I show the cultural longevity of occidental antipathy for the wolf. In contrast, wolves enjoy reverence in Native American folklore and tribal practices. Tracing these folkloric and cultural artifacts, the historic and ongoing persecution of wolves in Western cultures, despite the ecological and economic harm, shows the persistence and impact of myths and fictional narratives.”

Elina recently graduated summa cum laude as a major in Environmental Studies with a minor in geography. Since graduation, she has resumed her work in the arts and will likely attend graduate school in the near future.

Alumna Elina Cate Griggs
Alumna Elina Cate Griggs