Conferences and collaborations

For 67 years and counting, the Northwestern Anthropological Conference has hosted a collection of professors, graduate students and undergrads all united by their interest in the field of anthropology. This year, the anthropology club at Washington State University Vancouver had the opportunity to join them in Bellingham, Washington.  The four-day event gave these WSU Vancouver students the chance to experience the world of anthropology in an academic setting and to take part in seminars they would not normally have the chance to join.

More than simply offering them the chance to hear about new research projects, though, the conference was a chance for the anthropology club members to compare themselves to their peers and set benchmarks.  “It was an indicator for the answer to ‘where do we go from here?’” said Daniel Radcliffe, an anthropology major and Junior.  Radcliffe also said that the event worked not just as a way to gauge their progress as anthropologists, but also as a “whole series of teaching, integrating themes of anthropology.” One lecture he mentioned as particularly interesting was by Adam Kessler of the University of Idaho, who gave a talk about artificial language and culture titled “Those Who Speak Tlhingan’Hol (Klingon).” Club members as a whole added topics they found interesting. The scope of topics at the conference was enormous, ranging from the study of how different cultures treat sickness with everything from herbs to songs to analyzing how Celiac disease and gluten intolerance have shaped contemporary dietary preference.

Kirstie Hayes, another anthropology major in her Senior year, talked about seeing graduate students defending their theses at a conference and how that gave her confidence. “It’s great to see that it’s not the end of the world if my thesis is wrong,” she said, discussing how encouraged she felt by the atmosphere of discussion there. Though she saw students presenting ideas that were deconstructed in various ways, she noticed that they also received constructive feedback to help them build a better argument in the future. Hayes also described everyone as “genuinely friendly,” with communication flowing both ways between students and professors.

Keeping with the theme of furthering scholarship outside the classroom setting, the anthropology club is also planning on bringing in a guest speaker to WSU Vancouver for a talk on her work in the fields of family studies and human development.  Their speaker, Alice Schlegel, Ph.D., is a Professor Emerita from the University of Arizona who has studied cross-cultural phenomenon ranging from kinship in the Hopi tribe to adolescence among German industrial apprentices. The event is planned for the beginning of Fall semester.

Following Commencement Day, two of the anthropology club’s officers will be graduating, and the club is planning a recruitment drive to build their rolls. Any students interested in the study of anthropology, especially those planning on studying it as a major or minor, are encouraged to join as a way to participate in further anthropology events as well as getting involved on campus.  Those interested should contact Kirstie Hayes, or stop in for a club meeting in VLIB 240, Tuesdays at 3:00 p.m.

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