Chair's Greeting: A Year of Change

By Nancy N. Chen, Professor and Chair

As we join to celebrate graduation, it is an opportunity to share how fortunate we are to teach, mentor, and collaborate with anthropology students as they pursue their undergraduate and graduate careers at UCSC. Our students come from diverse communities both near and far, some as the first-generation college students in their family, others as the first to major in anthropology. Our majors not only study the making of kinship but also help to extend the diverse branches of knowledge that shape the discipline. Belonging defines who we are and how we relate to certain worlds and different realms of meaning. We are honored that your family members have chosen anthropology to hone their abilities in cultural analysis, delve deep into human diversity, and document emerging worlds. In seeking out perspectives and meanings from new points of view, they are helping to create important possibilities for making a difference.

This has been a year of dramatic change in many realms. Lessons from the research of earlier anthropologists regarding race, gender, difference, and tolerance continue to be relevant today. Our students learn not only from the past but also from contemporary concerns -whether of fiscal crisis, violence, inequality, climate change, or survival - as opportunities for ethnographic encounters and social transformation. As they analyze these issues both in the classroom as well as taking on original research for their senior exit requirements, Anthropology majors are recognized with the highest honors from the department as well as with Deans’ and Chancellor’s Awards. This year three of our majors received divisional Deans’ Awards and one undergraduate went on to be recognized across the campus with the highest award for student research by the Chancellor. We also have an incredible Ph.D. program - our graduate students have received the highest number of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships at UCSC (higher than the Sciences) for over twenty-five years.

We are deeply fortunate to have stellar staff members whose incredible work facilitates the high performance of the department. We just celebrated 15 years of UC service for our department manager, Fred Deakin, and the 20th year of Lab Manager Richard Baldwin. They are joined by our wonderful Undergraduate Coordinator Molly Segale, Graduate Coordinator Taylor Ainslie, and new staff member Instructional Analyst Rachel Grad.

Our faculty are outstanding scholars who collectively train Anthropology majors and Ph.D.s with leading edge research and knowledge production. This year has been incredible in that we have been able to not only retain outstanding colleagues but also to recruit new members. We were successful in keeping newly tenured Associate Professor Lars Fehren-Schmitz from being recruited away by Yale University as well as re-animating the biological anthropology track by welcoming Assistant Professor Victoria Oelze from the Max Planck Institute and the return of Professor Alison Galloway from senior administration. We also hired two new faculty members, Assistant Professors Nidhi Mahajan and Savannah Shange, who will join us in the coming academic year. Other notable achievements include: Professor Don Brenneis’ Boas award by the American Anthropology Association for distinguished service to the discipline; Professor Danilyn Rutherford’s appointment as the incoming President for the international Wenner Gren Foundation; Professor Melissa Caldwell’s ongoing work as Editor of Gastronomica; Professor Emeritus Olga Najera–Ramirez’s Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Diversity; and Professor Diane Gifford Gonzalez’s service as President of the Society for American Archaeology.

Anthropology students are creative, resilient, and above all, engaging. These vital skills help carry our new graduates forward in their journeys after studying here at UCSC. Many of our Anthropology students pursue work in research, public policy, health care, law, business, media, teaching, and non-profit organizations. I join my colleagues in wishing the class of 2017 our hearty congratulations for graduation. We look forward to hearing your stories, sharing your struggles and successes, and knowing that you will continue being Anthropology Banana Slugs wherever you are in the world. Stay in touch and come home to UCSC Anthropology anytime!