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A Bright Future Despite the Challenging Times

Message from the Department Head

Barbara HeathIt is a bright winter morning as I look from my desk in Strong Hall out past Hodges Library and McClung and Andy Holt Towers, towards the distant peaks and ridges of the Smoky Mountains. The spring semester is underway, with students and faculty passing in the hall as they head towards classrooms and labs. Because of the challenges of COVID-19, which continues its surge in East Tennessee, we’re beginning the semester cautiously, with flexible schedules, routines, and expectations, while still moving forward. Despite these challenging times, I’m excited and energized by all that the department is doing. We’re enjoying a period of record growth in undergraduate enrollment, with 375 primary majors, 13 secondary majors, and 27 minors. We’ve welcomed three new post-docs and a new undergraduate academic advisor to Strong Hall this year. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about them in this issue of the newsletter. This spring, we’re busy conducting two searches for new tenure-line faculty in cultural and biological anthropology, and are in the midst of accepting a talented new cohort of graduate students for fall 2022. 

Members of the department continue to earn national and international accolades as authors, scholars, and educators. I’ve highlighted a selection of our accomplishments in the newsletter, and others appear in greater detail in the online version, available at the department’s website ( I’d like to draw attention to a few in this article.  

Last summer, ​Assistant Professor Raja Swamy published Building Back Better in India, Development, NGOs, and Artisanal Fishers after the 2004 Tsunami with the University of Alabama Press, the culmination of more than a decade of research in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam District. Associate Professor Ben Auerbach’s co-edited volume, The Evolutionary Biology of the Human Pelvis: An Integrative Approach, received an Outstanding Academic Title Award from Choice Reviews, which is the publishing house for the Association of College and Research Libraries. Post-doctoral Teaching Associate Sarah Page has been invited to participate in the University of Tennessee Humanities Center’s manuscript review program for her manuscript “Queer Perseverance: The Rise of LGBTQ Rights Activism in Jamaica.” The program provides authors with detailed feedback about their book manuscript and assists them in finding suitable publishers for their work.

Assistant Professor Anneke Janzen and Associate Professor Kendra Chritz of the University of Oregon recently received a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation for their research on early pastoralists and fishers-hunter-gatherers in Kenya. Anneke, Kandi Hollenbach, and I are also working together, with graduate student Brigid Ogden and undergraduate Keri Burge, to study the impact of colonialism on the environment, animal husbandry, and agricultural practices in the colonial Chesapeake. Keri was named a Goldwater Scholar, a nationally-competitive scholarship for undergraduates working in STEM. 

PhD candidate Jenna Watson was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, as well as a McClure Scholarship for International Travel. She is conducting dissertation research in Romania. 

The Forensic Anthropology Center hosted more than 200 participants from the law enforcement agencies and training programs in Mexico and the United States, teaching introductory and advanced courses in comparative osteology, recovery, forensic burial excavation, and the general field of forensic anthropology. 

I’ve highlighted just a portion of the great work that is going on in the department. I hope you have the opportunity to visit us over the coming year and learn more. Until then, I encourage you to keep in touch.


Barbara Heath