Department Newsletter, March 2017

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Announcements
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition

Message from the Chair

Professor Chet Sherwood, chair of the Department of Anthropology, in his laboratory in Science and Engineering Hall
Professor Chet Sherwood, chair of the Department of Anthropology, in his laboratory in Science and Engineering Hall

The GW Anthropology Department is home to a diverse and academically vibrant community. We’ve enjoyed recent growth in anthropology faculty and programs and we are training more students than ever. The Anthropology PhD program is now in its fifth year and the new Human Paleobiology Master’s program is just beginning. Our long-standing undergraduate majors, Anthropology Master’s and Human Paleobiology PhD programs continue to thrive. Our students are engaged in exciting research, crisscrossing the globe, in the metro D.C. area and in the laboratory, making important discoveries about human culture, language, biology, past behavior and evolutionary history. We are very fortunate to have several Anthropology Department research funds that facilitate these students’ projects. For example, The Lewis N. Cotlow Field Research Fund supports graduate and undergraduate student research in any area of anthropology. Since 1991, it has supported over 200 anthropological research projects by GW students in 55 countries. The Rogers Excavation Scholarship, administered through the Capitol Archaeological Institute, provides funding for undergraduate students to work in archaeology, especially those participating in an excavation for the first time. And the William Warren Endowment Fund supports student fieldwork in archaeology and paleontology. We appreciate the generosity that established these endowments and we are thankful for other gifts to the department. These funds have enabled our students to pursue their research passions.

We invite you to stay connected with us by following the department’s various social media feeds for announcements about our events, activities and projects—GW Anthropology and the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology (CASHP) are on Facebook and Twitter. Also, please let us know about your personal and professional milestones. And visit us when you’re in town. We are always delighted to hear from you. You are part of our GW Anthropology tribe!

Chet C. Sherwood

Professor and Chair of Anthropology

GW Anthropology Facebook
CASHP Facebook
CASHP Twitter

Back to Top 

 Department Spotlights

Slave Wrecks Project


Maritime archaeologists record findings at the site of the São José wreckage (Photo courtesy of Iziko Museums)
Maritime archaeologists record findings at the site of the São José wreckage (Photo courtesy of Iziko Museums)





The Slave Wrecks Project, based at GW, is a long-term collaboration between six institutions which combines research, training and education to advance the study of the global slave trade, particularly through the lens of slave shipwrecks. Associate Professor of Anthropology Stephen Lubkemann is the international coordinator of the project. The Smithsonian’s recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture exhibits artifacts from the São José, a slave ship that sank in 1794 and is being excavated in South Africa by the Slave Wrecks Project. In this way, the Slave Wrecks Project plays a central role in bringing the tragic and consequential story of the African slave trade to the public eye. The project has been featured on 60 Minutes, in The Washington Post and in the GW Research Magazine.

Learn more about the Slave Wreck Project

Institute for African Studies


The newly launched Institute for African Studies
The newly launched Institute for African Studies


GW's "Remembering Biafra" conference will bring together scholars, activists and humanitarians to examine the global impact of the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967-70


In 2016, GW launched the Institute for African Studies, appointing Anthropology Professor Richard Grinker as inaugural director. Housed at the Elliott School for International Affairs, the institute aims to become a hub for intellectual engagement with pressing social, economic and political issues in sub-Saharan Africa. It will lead the development of an MA degree program in African Studies at the Elliott School, partnerships with local universities and museums, exchange partnerships with African universities and outreach to the African diaspora in the D.C. area. In April, the institute will present a large conference recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Biafran War, featuring novelist and MacArthur “genius award” winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Learn more about the institute 

New Understanding of Chimpanzee Behavior


Chimpanzees at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania
Chimpanzees at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania



Research by Assistant Professor Carson Murray and her colleagues suggests that male chimpanzees are more invested in protecting their own offspring than previously thought. Researchers found male chimpanzees spend time with non-mating female chimpanzees that are caring for their offspring. This finding is unexpected since the species is highly promiscuous and researchers previously questioned whether male chimpanzees could recognize their offspring. The study, published in Royal Society Open Science, is based on data from Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania where long-term data collection is supported by the Jane Goodall Institute.

Learn more about Dr. Murray's Research on Chimpanzee behavior

 Back to Top


Department Announcements

Faculty Kudos

Recent faculty books:

Recent faculty research grants: 

  • Sergio Almécija’s project “Phylogenetic inference in hominoids using multiple hard-tissue 3D morphologies” received funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
  • Brenda Bradley was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for the project “Population genetics of Machu Picchu.”
  • David Braun also received NSF support for “Technological origins: environmental and behavioral context of the earliest tool users.”
  • Shannon McFarlin, with David Patterson (former GW Human Paleobiology PhD), Kay Behrensmeyer (Smithsonian) and the Amboseli Baboon Research Project were awarded NSF funding for their project, “Unlocking the hard tissue record of baboon adaptability to environmental change in the Amboseli basin, Kenya.”
  • Sarah Wagner’s project “The gift of death: violent conflict and the obligations of care” was funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Recent faculty awards:

  • Attiya Ahmad was recently awarded a Luce/ACLS fellowship in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs to pursue work on her halal tourism project.
  • In June 2016, Alison Brooks was awarded the Medal of Honor (Médaille d'Honneur) of the City of Toulouse for her contributions to the archaeology of Africa.
  • Alexander Dent was awarded GW’s Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence in 2015.
  • Eric Cline won the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award in 2015.

Attiya Ahmad’s forthcoming book, Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work, and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait (Duke University Press), explains why South Asian domestic workers in the Persian Gulf region are converting to Islam and how it represents a refashioning of their past lives rather than a clean break.

Sergio Almécija, who recently joined the anthropology faculty in 2015, conducts innovative research on ape and human evolution, challenging the notion that humans evolved from an ancestor that was anatomically similar to a chimpanzee. His research questions basic paradigms of human evolutionary theory, such as that human hands evolved for the specific purpose of making and using tools.

Jeffrey Blomster has embarked on a third season of excavation in Oaxaca, Mexico, to elucidate the foundations of complex societies there.  Several GW students accompany him, notably PhD candidate Victor Salazar.

Brenda Bradley, director of our Primate Genomics Laboratory, integrates genomic analyses with behavioral, morphological and environmental data to address questions about primate evolution.

Under the direction of David Braun, GW’s Koobi Fora Field School has dramatically expanded the diversity of research in archaeology as a whole. We gave fellowships to students from underrepresented groups and worked with these students to develop publications and presentations at national meetings.

In June, 2016, Alison Brooks was awarded the Medal of Honor (Médaille d'Honneur) of the City of Toulouse for her contributions to the archaeology of Africa.

Eric Cline’s 17th book, Three Stones Make a Wall: The Story of Archaeology, was recently published by Princeton University Press.

Alexander Dent is a pioneer in the scholarly study of plagiarism, media piracy and counterfeiting in the digital age, publishing several articles on the subject.

Mark Edberg is director of a new Exploratory Research Center on Latino Immigrant/Refugee Health Disparities, funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (at NIH), focusing on the co-occurring disparities of substance abuse, youth violence and sexual risk.

Ilana Feldman follows her book on policing Gaza with work tracing the Palestinian experience with humanitarianism in the years since 1948, exploring both how this aid apparatus has shaped Palestinian social and political life and how the Palestinian experience has influenced the broader post-war humanitarian regime.

In his recent book Drone: Remote Control Warfare (The MIT Press), Hugh Gusterson explores the significance of drone warfare from multiple perspectives, drawing on accounts by drone operators, victims of drone attacks, anti-drone activists, human rights activists, international lawyers, journalists, military thinkers and academic experts.

Using new and more rigorous methods, Joel Kuipers’ research on the role of Arabic in Indonesia has shed light on a pressing issue of international concern: the role of resurgent, orthodox Islam in the world's largest Muslim country, Indonesia.

Stephen Lubkemann, Richard Grinker and colleagues are co-editing the forthcoming Companion to the Anthropology of Africa. This 24-chapter book will be published by Wiley-Blackwell later this year.

Shannon McFarlin directs the multidisciplinary/multi-institution Mountain Gorilla Skeletal Project in Rwanda, which has established the largest single collection in the world of skeletal remains of gorillas. Over half of the mountain gorillas in the collection were observed in life by Dian Fossey and/or her colleagues, including detailed behavioral, ecological and other data accompanying the remains.

Barbara Miller continues to promote the relevance of anthropology, especially sociocultural, to the public with her anthropologyworks blog and associate Twitter and Facebook platforms. Each week, on her blog, she provides a round-up of mentions of anthropologists in mainstream media. Each year, she offers a list of her choice of "best dissertations" in sociocultural anthropology. Anthropologyworks Twitter has nearly 20,000 followers worldwide, and the Facebook posts reach thousands of readers each week.

Carson Murray, director of the Primate Behavioral Ecology Lab, conducts research on wild chimpanzees with a multinational team. For their findings about parental behavior by male chimpanzees, see the Spotlight section.

Sean Roberts is on sabbatical in 2016-17, working on a new book on the relationship between the Global War on Terror and the strengthening of authoritarian regimes.

Robert Shepherd is now based at the Elliott School of International Affairs, working on the connections between international human rights campaigns, environmentalism and the world heritage movement, especially in China.

Moses Schanfield, in addition to his academic work, continues to assist with forensic investigations, such as a reopened 1982 murder case.

Chet Sherwood recently received NIH support to initiate the National Chimpanzee Brain Resource, based at GW. In addition, he directs the Laboratory for Evolutionary Neuroscience and publishes on the topic of brain evolution.

Elanah Uretsky published the book Occupational Hazards: Sex, Business, and HIV in Post-Mao China (Stanford University Press, 2016).

Sarah Wagner’s project “The Gift of Death: Violent Conflict and the Obligations of Care” was funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Bernard Wood, the University Professor of Human Origins, has been asked by Princeton University Press to edit the Princeton Guide to Human Evolution.


Recent Anthropology Graduate Student Research Grants: Anthropology doctoral student Raquel Machaqueiro won a grant from the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation, which is part of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Upper Education. NSF grants were awarded to Sarah Richardson for her dissertation project “Factors influencing the validity of documentary evidence in post-conflict contexts” and to Gorkem Aydemir Kundakci for her project titled “Forced migration, displacement, and community in contested borderlands.”

Recent Human Paleobiology Graduate Student Research Grants: The Leakey Foundation has awarded several grants to human paleobiology PhD students: Laurence Dumouchel for “The environments of the earliest obligate biped, Australopithecus anamensis,Kate McGrath for “Understanding stress-related enamel defects in wild mountain gorillas,” Kelly Ostrofsky for “Comparison of vertical climbing and suspension in wild African apes,” Katie Ranhorn for “New approaches to the archaeology of modern human origins,” and Kaitlin Wellens for “Maternal effects on juvenile chimpanzee social behavior and physiological stress.” The NSF also made dissertation grants to Cassandra Turcotte and Kate McGrath.


Transnational Seminar in Globally Shared Heritage: In 2017, two of the department’s associate professors, David Braun and Stephen Lubkemann, along with Anthropology PhD candidate Raquel Machaqueiro, are leading an effort to use virtual technology to create new opportunities for GW students and faculty to collaborate with counterparts in Africa and the Caribbean. This spring, they launched a “transnational seminar” in which an interdisciplinary team of over 15 GW faculty and Smithsonian curators, together with lecturers from South Africa and Mozambique, are helping undergraduates and master’s students analyze the political questions and practical challenges involved in defining and managing “heritage.”

The next issue of Anthropology News will have an “Ethnographer as Activist" feature that focuses on the topic of the anthropologist moving in, through and across activist spaces as both ethnographer and advocate. Among the authors will be GW Anthropology Department members Hugh Gusterson (faculty), Chloe Ahmann (PhD student), Emma Backe (MA student), Haley Bryant (MA ’15) and Scott Ross (PhD student).

Department Events

Thanks to an endowment from the late Jane B. Hart, BA ’70, we sponsor a Jane B. Hart Distinguished Lecture. This year’s speaker was Dr. Kristen Hawkes of the University of Utah. She spoke on March 22, 2017 on “The Grandmother Hypothesis and Human Evolution.” Her talk discussed the importance in human evolution of older family members supporting their younger kin. Alumni and friends of GW Anthropology are always invited to join us for future lectures.

Journey to the Origins of Humankind: Faculty in our department’s Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, in collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya, have developed a unique tour, available by request, to allow select visitors to access a once-in-a-lifetime insight into human origins by touring sites and collections in Kenya. We have partnered with Abercrombie and Kent to develop a truly exclusive perspective on human origins. If you would like to extend or shorten any particular component of this tour, this can be arranged.  Please contact us at [email protected].

Back to Top

Alumni Updates/Class Notes

Luisa Abott, BA ’77, retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2007 and lives in Williamsburg, Va.

Cathy Andberg, BA ’73, recently retired after a career in occupational therapy in Duluth, Minn. She now spends her time on National Ski Patrol, outdoor adventures, travel in the U.S. and visiting family in the Twin Cities, Minn.

Gary P. Aronsen, MA ’96, directs the Yale University Biological Anthropology Labs and studies primate ecology and comparative osteology. He has a 2016 paper on a DNA recovery from human bone, and one in press documenting chimpanzee skeletons at Yale Peabody Museum.

Melissa Aszkler, BS ’11, MA ’13, works for an international health services company performing customer research. She recently moved back to D.C. and is enjoying reconnecting with the GW community.

Mackenzie Becker, BA ’14, after graduating from Howard Law this spring, will begin work as an Equal Justice Works fellow on a project to develop culturally competent legal representation for LGBT youth in foster care at the Children's Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Daniel Bernier, BA ’87, is an attorney in Waterville, Maine, where he lives with his wife and children.

Rujuta Bhatt, BA ’06, is a pediatric neurologist and faculty member at UCLA focusing on behavioral neurology and doing clinical work and research.

Rebecca Biermann, BA ’13, MA ’14, is currently working towards her PhD in biological anthropology with a focus on paleoanthropology at the University at Buffalo. She is also a teaching assistant, a Presidential Fellow and works part time doing archaeology.

Peter Blood, BA ’75, received his MA from the Delhi School of Economics in India in 1980 and worked as an Asia analyst and congressional relations specialist at the Library of Congress, from which he recently retired. He has lectured at Navajo Community College.

Megan Davison, BA ’12, is currently living in Chicago working as a consultant for Lipman Hearne, a marketing and branding firm dedicated to working exclusively with nonprofits. She is checking races off her bucket list, keeping up with Mayan archaeology and sampling craft beer.

Alexandra de Sousa, PhD ’08, is a senior lecturer in psychology, culture and environment at Bath Spa University, a top creative institution in the U.K. Her research focus is in brain evolution.

Teresa Dunphy, BS ’09, after graduation, worked as an EMT in D.C. and Maryland before moving to Texas to attend medical school.  She is now a third-year medical student at UNTHSC Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine hoping to do her residency in emergency medicine.

Stephanie Feinman, BA ’14, in 2015, worked as a production coordinator for the MTV World Series, Rebel Music Season II. The six 30-minute episodes examine the lives of young people using art and music to spark change around the world.

Ian Kerrigan, MA ’05, serves as director of exhibitions at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. He leads the institution's curation, design and maintenance of exhibitions regarding the history and ongoing effects of 9/11.

Clare Kimock, MA ’15, is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at New York University.

Nedjra Manning, BA ’11, has been a NYC public school teacher in the Bronx for the past four years. This year, she is working at MS/HS 223-The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, teaching 7th and 8th grade social studies and 12th grade African diasporic literature.

Mary Martin, BA ’65, received her masters at the University of Michigan in speech pathology. She lived in Michigan for about 25 years and returned to home in Los Angeles 20 years ago.

Sarah Mezzino, BA ’04, is a curator for The Lawrenceville School, and just hosted a lecture on architects Peabody and Stearns.  She is prepping an exhibit on the school's 125-year-old theater program and has penned an article on Tiffany Windows for spring 2017 The Lawrentian.

Marintha Miles, MA ’16, is a PhD student at George Mason University in cultural studies. Her dissertation research explores the successes and failures of human rights activism against state violence.

Daniel Miller, MA ’11, is currently completing his doctoral work on the evolution of brain organization with Dr. Jon Kaas at Vanderbilt, and will begin his postdoctoral work on the genetics of brain development with Dr. Nenad Sestan at Yale this fall.

Mark Nelson, MA ’15, is currently working at George Washington's Mount Vernon as a collections technician.

Jennifer Nichols, BA ’16, is now interning for the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, located at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. She collects behavioral data on chimpanzees and gorillas at the zoo.

Janet Niessner, BA ’07, is currently the director of archaeological services for DirectAMS, a radiocarbon dating service. She received a Masters of Science in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology from Cranfield University, Defence Academy of the U.K.

Lisa Marie Porter, MA ’07, is the volunteer manager at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, focusing  on volunteers who conduct informal science education with the museum's visitors. September 2017 will mark 10 years at NMNH.

Kristen Ramirez, BS ’13, is a fourth year PhD student at the City University of New York in the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology. Her dissertation focuses on the biomechanics and evolution of suspension in hominoids.

Naina Ramrakhani, BA ’14, is currently in her third year working as the special events & group visits coordinator at the Rubin Museum of Art, planning and executing private rentals and special programs. She is also applying to the music business graduate program at NYU!

Alexandra Ratzlaff, BA ’03, is currently a NEH postdoctoral fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Israel. Beginning in 2017-2018, he will be a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at Boston University.

Elizabeth (Liz) Renner, PhD ’15, after finishing her PhD in 2015, began a postdoctoral position at the University of Stirling in Scotland. She is still working with pre-school-aged children and non-human primates, principally squirrel monkeys.

Detra Robinson, MA ’94, shortly after graduation in 1994, joined Westat — a contract research organization in Rockville, Md.  Now a company vice president, she manages international projects dedicated to improve lives through research.

Shanyn Ronis, BA ’09, is a member of the Forbes 30 under 30 class of 2017 and a finalist for the Forbes $1 million Change the World award owing to her work in international education. In 2013 she founded the Education Global Access Program, a global nonprofit.

Ana Rossetti, BA ’02, is an assistant dean at Illinois Tech Stuart School of Business, Chicago. In March 2017, she began her term as co-chair of the Women in Student Affairs Knowledge Community of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education professional association.

Diana Santillán, MA ’06, is the senior gender and evaluation specialist at EnCompass, LLC, where she provides training, technical assistance, research and evaluation expertise to advance gender equality in international health and development.

Aaron Schmitt, BA ’13, is currently a data manager for a nonprofit cooperative group that conducts clinical trials for cancer treatments. She states that, “I owe my time at GW, specifically my internship at CASHP, to where I am now as my work is all about data analysis.”

Douglas Smit, BA ’08, after graduating from GW, Douglas received his MA in anthropology from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2012, and will receive his PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2017.

Joseph Snyder, BA ’68, is retired and living in Shepherdstown, W.V., with his wife. He is still writing and publishing fiction and non-fiction (see his biography in Who's Who in the World).

Spiro Stefanou, BA ’77, after graduation, went on to graduate study in agricultural economics. He was on the faculty at Penn State for nearly 32 years and assumed the position of professor and chair of food and resource economics at the University of Florida in January 2015.

Jack Stein, BA ’73, went on to obtain a medical degree and a master’s degree in public health.  He was the corporate medical director for Sunoco for 18 years and is now the CMD for Philadelphia Energy Solutions. Jack is Board Certified in Int/Occ/and Addiction Medicine.

Stephanie Strauss, MA ’13, holds a Harrington Doctoral Fellowship in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She recently advanced to ABD status, and her first peer-reviewed article (on writing at Izapa, Chiapas) was just accepted for publication in Ancient Mesoamerica.

Anna Taylor, MA ’98, serves as regional director for Take Stock in Children, a college access nonprofit which has provided scholarships and caring mentors to over 27,000 first generation college students across Florida.

Danielle Tyson, BA ’13, is finishing up her graduate degree in museum studies, also from GW, and is working in development at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.

Marianne Weant, MA ’05, welcomed their fourth child, Emilia, in July.

Douglas Wicklund, BA ’83, MA ’86, is currently senior curator for the three NRA Museums. He operates from the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va., and is responsible for a collection approaching 10,000 firearms. Last year marked 30 years for him in this line of work.

Irene Zimmermann, BA ’80, MA ’85, after a career in anthropology, is working with National Museum of the American Indian and other Smithsonian Museums, as well as international organizations, NGOs and consulting firms.

Back to Top

Donor Recognition


The Anthropology Department would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the school from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.

+ Faculty/Staff | # Parent | ~ Student | * Friend

Lauren N. Buscato ~

Jardine C. Gallucci, BA ’65

David J. Green, PhD ’10

Susan C. Heald, BA ’85

Clare A. Heberg, BA ’86

Laura J. Hellwig, BA ’16

Jonathan A. Higman, MA ’83

Victoria A. Higman, MA ’78

Sarah J. Koclar, BA ’15

Samantha J. Lee, BA ’16

Marilyn R. London, BA ’77

Kathleen E. Maley, BA ’74

Pratika Mikkilineni, BS ’16

Marie I. Reely, BA ’73

Zara M. Schiavo-Campo, BA ’02

Aaron W. Schmitt, BA ’13

Gary D. Shaffer, BA ’77

Catherine H. Silvo, BA/BS ’08

Anna N. Taylor, MA ’98

Beatrice A. Taylor, BA ’66

Marissa K. Weber, BA ’16

Barbara L. Wolff, BA ’78

Molly J. Zepp ~

Back to Top