Letter from the Chair

Greetings from the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. I write to you as interim chair this academic year while T.R. Kidder is on leave. Our large department is busy, but I am happy to report that we are thriving—with new labs and teaching spaces, new faculty hires and growing enrollments.

The past year saw the retirement of two longtime faculty members. Professor Robert Canfield retired from teaching but continues as an Emeritus member of the department. Emeritus Professor James Cheverud joined the faculty of Loyola University, Chicago, as chair of the biology department. We miss their full-time involvement in the department but greatly value their contributions and are happy that they continue as colleagues.

We began the academic year with new teaching labs in the McMillan Hall addition, completed just before classes began in late August. We are very grateful to the university for their investment in our department. The new spaces allow us to expand the content and size of our lab courses, and the green roof has experimental gardens where our faculty can grow indigenous crops. Existing faculty labs were upgraded in the process of separating research and teaching functions with the addition of the new building. The department undertook two successful searches last year and we will welcome to the department new physical anthropologist, Amanda Melin, in January 2014 and archaeologist, Xinyi Liu, in July 2014. Lab construction for their research spaces has already begun and we look forward to introducing them in the next newsletter. Our enrollments continue to soar with an array of popular courses across all subfields.

Our network of alumni also continues to grow as we reach more graduates through our newsletter. Our alums amaze us with their endeavors and we love showcasing the variety of careers and projects they undertake. If you are not listed in our Alumni Directory, please send us your information for future issues. I hope you will find these connections interesting and useful and will stay in touch with the department through the newsletter, email or personal visits when you can.

We always look forward to hearing from our graduates and we enjoy sharing some of their stories. We profile Melinda Kramer (AB 2003) who founded and co-directs the Women’s Earth Alliance, a nonprofit that supports women at the grassroots level in their efforts to implement meaningful environmental reforms in their own communities.  Harry Alper (AB 2011) works on environmental projects with the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club. Chris Fuertges (AB 2012) has put his primatology training to use with an internship on the Disney Animal Kingdom Science Team. Melissa Halverson (AB 2004) pursued anthropology in graduate school and now works as a curator at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, IL. Annie Lumerman (AB 2005) used her experience in the nonprofit realm to develop a consulting company for small nonprofits. Laura Zaim (AB 2012) has joined a startup company that provides skills training and job opportunities. Rita McNamara (AB 2009) and Emily Niespodziewanski (AB 2008) are pursuing PhDs in anthropology. Ellen Miller (AB 2011) is working on public health issues with the Peace Corps in Madagascar. The Reverend Margaret Lucie Thomas (MA 1972) is serving as interim rector of St. Paul’s Mexican Anglican Church in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico after many years of nonprofit and human rights work. Please see News and Notes for more news about our far-flung alumni.

Anthropology faculty are leaders in research, teaching, and service and we celebrate their initiatives and honors. In this issue, we profile Erik Trinkaus, Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor in Arts & Sciences, who is an expert on human functional morphology in late archaic and early modern humans, particularly Neanderthals. E. A. Quinn, a biological anthropologist, and Geoff Childs, a sociocultural anthropologist and demographer, are collaborating on a project in Nepal that investigates the effects of high altitude living on the nutrients in human milk. It is no accident that the enrollments in anthropology continue to grow. Our faculty are recognized as excellent teachers offering courses that are relevant to student academic interests. One measure of the stature of anthropology faculty is the frequency with which they are selected by the students for the Last Lecture Series. Professors Richard Smith, Darla Dale, Geoff Childs and Peter Benson, all of whom taught large introductory courses, have each been asked to provide one of the yearly lectures. Faculty regularly bring their research to the classroom and link students to the world beyond the classroom. Increasingly, they are using technology and innovative teaching methods to foster interaction among students, as E. A. Quinn does with her course on obesity. Among the awards bestowed on our faculty, Lewis Wall, MD/PhD, and Bradley Stoner, MD/PhD, were honored for humanism in medicine. Bret Gustafson addressed the world beyond the ivory tower in his remarks to students at the farewell dinner of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship. You can learn more about our faculty research on our department website.

Our graduate and undergraduate students take their passion for research and community engagement around the world. Sociocultural graduate student Alison Heller writes this year’s Letter from the Field about her research with women at fistula treatment centers in Niger. Archaeology graduate student Natalie Mueller and sociocultural graduate student Andrew Flachs, both Harvey Fellows in American Culture Studies, describe their experiences in the summer On Location traveling seminar on American identity. Nine students earned PhDs in the 2012-2013 academic year. We are very proud of the scholarship demonstrated by our students and are happy to share the achievements of our graduate students and undergraduate scholars. Senior Alena Wigodner received a National Science Foundation Research Experience Fellowship for multidisciplinary training in environmental and social sciences. Sixteen anthropology majors were elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the past year, and 19 graduated with Latin Honors. Susan DiMauro was the winner of the John Bennett Prize to the Outstanding Graduating Senior for her thesis on the history of the displacement of African-American farmers to create the Shenandoah National Park. Our students find ways to give back to their communities in a variety of ways within and outside their study sites as our graduate students exemplify. Undergraduate Rachel Hoffman served an internship in Uganda with a community organization that focuses on reproductive health of young people.

While our department is large, we work hard to make it feel like a community with a variety of inclusive gatherings. The oldest of these, Friday Archaeology, celebrates its 27th year of bringing together faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and community archaeologists in a weekly gathering to hear from these scholars about work in progress. Other events provide opportunities for faculty and students to carve out of busy days some social time to catch up and strengthen ties. Our departmental family is growing with the addition of children born to our faculty and graduate students. This year we welcomed Scout Lynn Bridgeman, Mina Natenzon, Skye Morgan, and Camellia Minglu Wallsong.

Enjoy the newsletter and please keep in touch. You can reach us by contacting Kirsten Jacobsen at kjacobsen@wustl.edu or through Submit a Class Note. I hope you will let us know where you are and what you are doing, including any personal news you would like to share with your fellow alumni.

Best wishes in the coming year.

Yours sincerely,
Fiona Marshall
Chair, Department of Anthropology