CWU News

CWU Anthropology Alum Helps Share U.S. Passion for Baseball with People of Bhutan

A photograph of Kathleen Kiefer in Bhutan, on a mountaintop surrounded by prayer flags.

Kiefer at Sangaygang surrounded by Bhutanese prayer flags.

Baseball is often referred to as America’s Pastime, but that doesn’t mean the fascination with the sport is specific to the United States. Many other countries share our affinity for baseball, and Central Washington University anthropology alumna Kathleen Kiefer is sharing that excitement and pageantry with her friends in Southeast Asia.

For the past two years, Kiefer (’94) has helped facilitate an effort to introduce the game to the country of Bhutan through her nonprofit organization, Bhutan Cultural Exchange (BCE). The initiative has been highly rewarding for Kiefer and her colleagues.

“Part of our effort was to develop a document that outlines what it is about baseball that’s so Bhutanese,” she said. “Baseball is a very meditative sport with a lot of pauses in play, bringing a very contemplative nature to the game. There are nine aspects to Bhutan’s concept of Gross National Happiness, and baseball fits very neatly into each of those.”

Kiefer is now raising money to continue the program into 2023 through GoFundMe—part of her lifelong commitment to cross-cultural education and exploration. She and several of her fellow BCE board members started visiting Bhutan in 2013 and were inspired by the heartfelt quality of the Buddhist culture and traditions, along with the kindness and creative energy of the people.

“As human beings, we have natural proclivities for learning, growing, sharing, and being part of the world in a deeper and more meaningful way,” said Kiefer, who earned her CWU degree while working with the Grant County Public Utility District as a Native American liaison. “I guess that’s really why anthropology was such a wonderful degree for me, because it felt like a place where I could grow as a human being.”

After completing her degree, Kiefer spent another 16 years with Grant County PUD before retiring to focus on her photography and filmmaking in 2010. In 2015, she documented a Bhutanese monk’s visit to Baker City, Oregon, and discovered a passion for the culture and people of Bhutan that would lead her to visit the country five times over the next four years in pursuit of further knowledge and understanding.

“I became a student of culture, and a student of people,” Kiefer said. “The pursuit of Anthropology  become the wind beneath my wings, validating what I loved about diverse cultures and people.”

After her initial visit to Bhutan, Kiefer and several colleagues founded BCE as a liaison organization between Bhutan and the U.S., bridging cultural gaps and facilitating international communication and education.

It was through this work that Kiefer connected with Matthew DeSantis and the Bhutan Baseball and Softball Association, who valued BCE’s organizational expertise and experience to further their efforts of introducing baseball there, starting with a 15-and-under youth league in 2021.

There is still much work to be done, but Kiefer said she feels extremely proud of the progress she and her colleagues in Bhutan have already made. She looks back on her time at Central in the mid-1990s as being the catalyst she needed to discover her true purpose in life.

“I really discovered my career and deepened my experience at CWU,” she said. “Several professors approved of me using some of my work experience as credits toward my degree, which allowed me to put into context at an even deeper level what I was learning. I just love Central.”

Learn more about the Bhutan Cultural Exchange online.

Media Contact: Rune Torgersen, Department of Public Affairs,,