From the Chair — Spring 2021

Headshot of Patricia Kramer white background
Patricia Kramer

Dear friends of UW Anthropology,

Each spring, the Department of Anthropology and the UW celebrates the achievements of our students as many of them graduate and leave our immediate community. For years we had joyous in-person commencements with the hugs and shouted encouragements of family and friends, but then the pandemic arrived. Now, our cherished traditions seem remote — pun intended; I’m trying to be upbeat as we face another round of goodbyes from afar. Our students and alumni remain amazing, and we continue to want to maintain our connections. Consequently, with this newsletter, we hope to share with you, our larger community, the accomplishments of the current members of the Department of Anthropology and our many and far-flung alumni. We also want to take the opportunity to introduce you to new members of our community as a way of maintaining the decades-long tradition of our department.

Our purpose remains to create and disseminate knowledge about people — across diverse populations extant today, through the lens of deep time and evolutionary processes, in how we communicate, and what we make and leave behind. Toward that educational goal, the department continues to thrive with over 650 undergraduate majors and minors. We graduate over 250 students again this year! Our students accomplish remarkable things, and they go on from our courses to become physicians, activists, parents, leaders, and generally better-informed citizens of the world due to the education that they received here. We are happy to be able to share some of their achievements with you in the stories that follow.

As many of you know, the last year has been difficult for the department. UW moved to online learning toward the end of Winter Quarter 2020 and we have remained primarily online through this academic year. Screen-exhaustion has become a way of life and as we struggle toward the end of spring quarter, I can only say that we all need a vacation. In this, we are like everyone else, I suspect. Unfortunately, we also had a tragic event occur in autumn quarter when Prof. Sam Dubal, a new member of the department who had just started in September 2020, was lost on Mount Rainier during a backpacking trip. A rising star in medical anthropology, Sam’s academic work was explicitly anti-racist and he challenged all of us to do the hard work of eliminating structural racism. We mourn with his family the loss of Sam’s shining presence and are deeply grateful that they have facilitated his ongoing vision through an endowed fellowship.

Even as I write this letter, I have learned of the passing of James W. Green, Senior Lecturer Emeritus, and long-time faculty member here at UW. With his family, we mourn his passing and will feature his distinguished career in a piece in our next Anthropolog.

Despite the difficulties we’ve faced this year, I think that our commitment to our students and world has never been stronger. As anthropologists, we’ve had tremendous opportunities to make a difference in our community and our world. We mention some of those in the stories included in this version of the AnthropoLog. I hope that you will enjoy reading about these and other activities and accomplishments of UW anthropologists. We are eager to stay in touch — from 6 feet away, with a mask on, and after you’ve washed your hands and been vaccinated! — and the AnthropoLog e-newsletter is just one way we hope to do this. Our website features news stories about our community, and we welcome you to share items that we might post. Thank you so much for your interest in the department, your support of our students, and your friendship.

I hope that you and your family and loved ones are well and safe. This is my last year as Chair of the Department of Anthropology, so I won’t have the opportunity of speaking with you all so directly in the future. Thank you, UW Anthropology community, for all that you are and do. I look forward to a just future for all of us.

Peace and joy,

Patricia Ann Kramer, signature
Patricia

First Generation Pride: 
Ask me about being the first generation in my family to earn an undergraduate degree.