Layla Presant

“I’m learning how to play the viola, speak Spanish, go back to school, and raise two young kids. Anyone can do it if you have the desire.”

One could easily write a book about the life of Layla Presant. Or several. In fact, she’s already written several herself. “My latest is a result of my travels in Costa Rica, where I interviewed a third-generation medicine man of the Bribri tribe in the Talamanca Mountains. I turned this experience into a children’s book, which comes out on Amazon in the fall,” says Layla. “I’m pretty certain that this will help me get into UCLA, because I’ve already worked as an anthropologist. Now I just need that degree!”

Layla’s journeys, starting when she was 15, have taken her to practically the entire alphabet of exotic countries. “I don’t come from money. I just made explorations my priority, and I worked hard, saved up, did a lot of planning, and then jumped on an airplane.” Throughout all of Europe, South America, Morocco, and Cambodia—to name just a few of her stopovers—Layla’s wanderlust never left her. So how would a dynamo like her ever settle down? Try Hollywood, baby! “I was in charge of 32 international territories as a Creative Director at Warner Brothers, where I worked on such high-profile ventures as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. But I resigned in 2004 to have my two kids—who I home-school now after their regular classes.” But the appearance of children has not affected Layla’s desire for adventure. And anthropology is her current ‘ticket to ride.’

“In our department at SMC, we have professors who’ve graduated from Ivy League schools and could teach at them. But they prefer this College, and their experience is unparalleled. In particular,” she continues, “Eric Minzenberg has been an inspiring presence in my life. He didn’t get his PhD until his mid-40s, and so he’s a great example of how any of us can do it. All it takes is an inquisitive mind and the willingness to always look just over the horizon.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.​