MNSU Reporter Article
Anthropology Department Prepares for another Successful Anthropology Day Celebration
By Luke Larson
On Thursday, February 18th, MNSU’s Anthropology Department is set to host a campus celebration in honor of World Anthropology Day. The festivities, to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Trafton North Room 359, will feature tours of anthropology laboratories, an opportunity to learn more about the study of anthropology, prize drawings, popcorn, cake, and, to top it off, an informative talk entitled “Women and Power in African Communities: The Case of Tanzania” given by Fulbright Scholar Dr. Rosemarie Mwaipopo, who is currently visiting Gustavus Adolphus College. The topic is especially relevant as Tanzania recently elected its first female vice president. Dr. Mwaipopo has worked at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania for twenty-three years.
Last year was the inaugural celebration of Anthropology Day and the department is eager to carry on this new tradition. MSU alumni Joshua Anderson played a role in getting the first Anthropology Day event off the ground while working as an intern in Washington D.C. for the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Last year’s event (then known as National Anthropology Day) was celebrated by a total of fifty-six schools, according to www.aaanet.org, the official website of the AAA. World Anthropology Day 2016 will be celebrated by 104 schools and organizations across the world, from Mexico to India to Morocco to the United States. This year, MSU’s recognition of the celebration is being coordinated by Dr. Kathryn Elliott, a professor of cultural anthropology in the department, and includes the development of an interactive language game for the day by Dr. Chelsea Mead and plans by Dr. J. Heath Anderson, an archaeological anthropologist with a specialty in Mesoamerica, to reach out to area high schoolers, in particular those in upper level Spanish classes.
The department consists of seven professors in total, with at least one specialist in each of the four different areas of anthropological study: archaeological, cultural, linguistic, and biological. Anthropology Day is by no means the only exciting activity taking place in the Anthropology Department these days. According to information provided by the department, among other things, Dr. Anderson and Dr. Kate Blue will soon be conducting research in Mexico as a result of a prestigious National Science Foundation grant, while Dr. Ron Schirmer was featured in the Mankato Free Press this past September for his unprecedented goal of creating a comprehensive database for all of Minnesota’s Native American archaeological sites. Dr. Elliott has been active in local endeavors, including work with the older adult community. Dr. Schalge continues wearing multiple hats as department chair, cultural anthropology professor, and researcher and writer about service learning and mothering cross culturally. As a whole, the anthropology faculty members have ongoing research projects around the globe, both locally within Minnesota and in Mexico, Tanzania, England, and Scandinavia, while Dr. Rhonda Dass and Dr. Chelsea Mead work with sovereign Native American nations.
The event is aimed at celebrating and raising awareness for the study of anthropology. At last year’s event, participants were asked to write a brief description of what anthropology meant to them. Answers included “people studying people,” “the study of all things humans,” “understanding the surrounding culture and people around me,” and “the study of peoples, past and present.”
“Anthropology is, simply, the study of humanity,” explains Dr. Kathleen Blue.
“Anthropologists are interested in humans in all times and all places, and in both their biological aspects and in their cultural identities. Anthropologists are interested in our earliest primate ancestors, past peoples, and in people living today, both locally and globally. Anthropologists want to understand our differences and our similarities, and why these exist.”
Mikyla Denney, an MSU junior majoring in anthropology as well as Spanish, says that her love for learning about the many cultures of the world led her to study anthropology.
“It’s important to understand different cultures,” she says. “When there are problems in the world between different countries, if people understand the culture of the other country, it’s easier to find a solution.”
Denney is one of seventy-five MSU students majoring in anthropology. She would like to perhaps one day work with immigrants or refugees. Dr. Blue notes that there are a variety of job opportunities in everything from public health to bilingual education to international development for today’s anthropology graduates.