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Celebrating 15 years of the Kassen Lecture Series

Each year the Department of Anthropology presents the Kassen Lecture Series, generously supported by Drs. Aileen and Julian Kassen. This year featured Rayna Rapp, Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Anthropology, New York University discussing “Banking on DNA: Non-Invasive Prenatal Tests in Comparative Perspective.” A reception was held after the lecture, encouraging further discussion amongst faculty, students, and guests. Dr. Rapp’s areas of research and interest are gender, reproduction, health and culture, and science and technology in the United States and Europe.
Shortly after this Kassen Lecture, Dr. Aileen Kassen moved to Boulder, Colorado to be near her daughter’s family. Aileen and her husband, Dr. Julian Kassen (deceased), provided 15 years of support of the annual Kassen Lecture Series (highlighted below), which featured prominent female anthropologists covering various aspects of medical anthropology and global health.

2014 - 2015:

“Banking on DNA: Non-Invasive Prenatal Tests in Comparative Perspective” by Rayna Rapp, PhD, Professor, Anthropology; Associate Chair,

New York University

2013 - 2014:

“Vulnerability, Virtue Ethics and the Anthropology of Suffering” by Cheryl Mattingly, PhD, Professor, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Southern California

2012 - 2013:

“The Alzheimer Enigma amidst Global Aging” by Margaret Lock, PhD, Marjorie Bronfman Professor Social Studies in Medicine, Professor Emerita, Anthropology, McGill University

2011 - 2012:

“Global Gametes: Reproductive ‘Tourism’ and Islamic Bioethics in the High-Tech Middle East” by Marcia C. Inhorn, PhD, William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, Yale University

2010 - 2011:

“Abandonment and Freedom: Elder-Care Institutions, Individualizing Subjectivities and the Ethics of Aging in Contemporary India” by Sarah Lamb, PhD, Professor, Anthropology, Brandeis University

2009 - 2010:

“Anthropologist as Witness; Anthropologist as Advocate: Objectivity and Responsibility in Current Anthropological Practice” by Jennifer Furin MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine, Case Western Reserve University

2008 - 2009:

“Enacting Ethos, Enacting Health: Parental Commentary and Everyday Life in a California Family” by Linda C. Garro, PhD, Irvine Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles

2007 - 2008:

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Cultural Models, Parenting Practices, and Child Development” by Carol Worthman, PhD, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor, Anthropology; Director, Laboratory for Comparative Biology, Emory University

2006 - 2007:

“Sociocultural Dimensions of Birth Outcomes: An Anthropological Approach to the Persistent Ethnic Gap” by Kathryn Oths, PhD, Professor, Anthropology, University of Alabama

2005 - 2006:

“Volunteering in Poorer Countries: Empowerment or Exploitation?” by Judith Justice PhD, MPH, Professor, Medical Anthropology and Health Policy, University of California, San Francisco

2004 - 2005:

“Indonesia Sakit (Indonesia in Pain): Interpretations of States of Crisis by Indonesian Contemporary Artists” by MaryJo DelVecchio Good, PhD, Professor, Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard University

2003 -2004:

“Thinking about Epidemics: Kuru, Mad Cow and Variant Cretzfeldt Jakob Disease” by Shirley Lindenbaum, Professor Emerita, Anthropology, City University of New York, Graduate Center

2002 - 2003:

“Thinking about Epidemics: Kuru, Mad Cow and Variant Cretzfeldt Jakob Disease” by Shirley Lindenbaum, Professor Emerita, Anthropology, City University of New York, Graduate Center

2001 - 2002:

“Alien Nation: Zombies, Immigrants, and the State of the South African Postcolony” by Jean Comaroff, PhD, Professor, Social Sciences Division, Anthropology, University of Chicago

2000 - 2001:

“Anthropologists in Public Health: A Time of Opportunity” by Susan Scrimshaw, PhD, Formerly, Dean, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health


All of us in the Anthropology Department, as well as some from outside the department, benefited greatly from these wonderful lectures and are deeply indebted and appreciative of the generous support that made these lectures possible. In addition, Aileen was an active and valued auditor of many

of our classes over the years, always adding a valuable perspective to class discussions. She will be greatly missed by one and all.



A Night of Solidarity with West Africa

Please join us on December 13 for a “Night of Solidarity with West Africa,” a fund-raising event to help stop Ebola in West Africa. The event, sponsored by CLEbola Cares, is being organized by adjunct faculty member Dr. Jennifer Furin and supported by the Anthropological Student Association (ASA). It will be held from 6:00 - 9:00 PM at the Tinkham Veale Student Center at CWRU in Ballroom A. The event will include music, food, a raffle, drinks, information about the culture and history of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, and inspiring stories of Ebola survivors. Tickets are $20 (for students with ID $10) or any donation you would like to make. All proceeds will go to benefit Doctors Without Borders and their valiant efforts to stop this deadly plague. For additional information or to make a donation, please contact Jennifer Furin at

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Dr. Katia Almeida

Dr. Katia Almeida gave two lectures this past summer. The first lecture “Teaching Cultures of Latin America: My Cross-Cultural Journey as Anthropologist and Native” was given to the Department of Social Sciences at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio in Janeiro (Brazil). The second lecture was given at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage called ““Inferno” in Brazil: the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and the rise of Neopentecostalism.” This lecture was part of the Yael Bartana “Inferno” video exhibit, for which she also recorded an entry in the audio guide.

Dr. Atwood Gaines

Dr. Atwood Gaines recently published “A Lion in Winter: Honoring the Life and Work of Robert B. Edgerton, Part I” in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry.

Dr. Melvyn Goldstein

In October, Dr. Melvyn Goldstein presented an invited paper, “Mao’s Tibet policy in the 1950’s and its implications for post-1978 China,” at a two day workshop titled “Imagined Communities and Frontiers” at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Dr. Jill Korbin


Congratulations to Dr. Jill Korbin recently named the Lucy Adams Leffingwell Professor. In January, she will also join the board of ChildFund International. ChildFund International is a child-focused development organization committed to enhancing community development, focusing on strengthening families and community structures that make up a child’s environment.

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Michele Hanks, Adjunct Faculty, publishes Haunted Heritage

Dr. Michele Hanks, adjunct instructor, published Haunted Heritage: The Cultural Politics of Ghost Tourism, Populism and the Past on no other than Halloween 2014. The book provides an overview of popular tourist attractions where visitors often go in hopes for chance ghost encounters. Hanks long-term dissertation fieldwork exploring the social anthropology of “ghost tourism,” observing and recording how paranormal information was captured, and the public’s fascination with visiting haunted places inspired the subject of this new book.



Julia Balacko

Julia Balacko was awarded a School of Graduate Studies (SGS) Graduate Student Travel award in support of her travels to Washington, DC this December to attend the American Anthropological Association annual meeting. She is also currently working on a literature review project of the sociology and anthropology of clinical training, with an emphasis on medical education.

Ariel Cascio

Ariel Cascio published an article in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry titled “New Directions in the Social Study of the Autism Spectrum: A Review Essay” this past June.

Nicholas Novak

Nicholas Novak was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa Grant for Student Research to support research for his Capstone Project “The Impact of Obesity on the Efficacy of Computer Aided Diagnostic Software.” This past April, he co-presented a poster at the Translational Science Annual Meeting, a jointly sponsored conference by the Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) and the American Federation for Medical Research (AFMR) in Washington, DC. The poster presentation was entitled “Dual Energy Subtraction Radiography: A Pilot Study.”



Graduate Discourse continues to promote academic unity and professional growth among anthropology graduate students. This academic year, GD members are focused on expanding the professional horizons of the current graduate students. The following students serve in these capacities: Raakhee Patel - Administrative/Advocacy Chair; Francis Manzella - Professional Development Chair; Julia Balacko - Social Chair; Jiye Wu - Librarian; Catherine Osborn - Graduate Student Senator.

October 2014 Graduate Discourse Meeting



Robert Hannan excavation participation at a 4,000 year old site

Undergraduate anthropology major, Robert Hannan, participated in the excavation of the Burrell Orchard site, a 4,000 year old Native American settlement in Lorain County, Ohio this past summer. The field school course is directed by Adjunct Associate Professor Brian Redmond and offered to CWRU students as Anthropology 324: Field Methods in Archaeology.

Robert worked alongside students from other universities and members of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The project discovered the remains of a Late Archaic period house structure represented by a clay floor and the remains of structural wall posts. Numerous stone tools, including ground axes and flint butchering knives, spear points, and drills were recovered, along with deer bone and antler, and carbonized plant remains such as hickory nut shells. Preliminary testing of the field surrounding the house area revealed deeply buried midden (refuse) deposits covering an area of one to two acres. This information indicates that the site functioned as a large, seasonal base camp for local hunter and gatherer societies around 2,000 B.C. Archaeological investigations will resume at Burrell Orchard in the summer of 2015.

Robert Hannan (center) recording a cooking pit feature

Interested students refer to Anthropology 324: Field Methods in Archaeology offered Summer 2015!


Margaret Kuhl

Margaret Kuhl has been awarded a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) award on Dr. Eileen Anderson-Fye’s Global Fat Stigma grant for the upcoming year. This award will allow her to set up a field site at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and conduct a mixed methods study looking at the relationship between HIV stigma and body image among college students. She will be conducting the research this spring while studying abroad at UCT.

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The Anthropological Student Association (ASA) was created to bring together undergraduate students in anthropology. ASA is a community centered around discussion and intellectual curiosity in which students have the opportunity to explore educational, cultural, and service opportunities in Cleveland, and share their passion for anthropology with the campus community. The following students have been newly elected to serve on the executive board: Hannah Low and Nisha Sambamurty; Presidents - Katherine Brandt; Vice President - Nusaiba Chowdhury; Secretary - Madison Dore; Treasurer. In September, they hosted a Welcome Back Barbeque for anthropology students, faculty, and friends. The event took place in the Mather Memorial Courtyard and was funded by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG).

In partnership with Newman Catholic Ministries, ASA will be hosting a "Holiday Fair Trade Sale" December 4-5 in Nord Atrium. They will be selling a variety of Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolates, jewelry, scarves and more from the Inter-Religious Task Force on Central America (IRTF). Stop by today anytime between 10:00 and 3:00PM.

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Renae Brown

Renae Brown (CWRU 2014) is currently working towards a Masters in the Nutrition Department here at CWRU. She is also working for the University Farm as the Farm Food Program Associate.

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Karen Kruzer

Karen Kruzer (CWRU 2014), who graduated with an MA in Bioethics and a BA in Medical Anthropology, is currently a first year student at Case Western Reserve Medical School. Karen is actively involved as a volunteer at the Free Clinic, Healthy Heart Clinic, and in community outreach programs. She is the medical student liaison for Case for Sight, an undergraduate pre-medical vision advocacy group that she was involved in all four years of college. She also volunteers at John Hay High School helping seniors write college essays.

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Sharif Sabe

Derek Schadel

Sharif Sabe (CWRU 2014), who graduated from the IGS program with a degree in Anthropology and an MA in Bioethics is currently attending Case Western Reserve Medical School working towards an MD degree.

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Derek Schadel (CWRU 2014), who graduated with a degree in Anthropology and Spanish and a minor in Math, will spend 10 months in Medellín, Colombia on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

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A spotlight report on a BA Graduate of our department

Featured graduate: Devyn Lee / Interviewed by: Dr. Vanessa Hildebrand

The graduates from our department go on to do incredible things. In this and future newsletters I will offer the results from an interview with a graduate of our department.

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Devyn Lee (BA 2013). She is well and has begun on what promises to be an interesting, challenging, and meaningful career. Devyn left CWRU with majors in Medical Anthropology and Biology, and a Certificate in Global Health and Anthropology. She had field experience, through study abroad programs, in Ecuador and Botswana. These experiences paired with her coursework led her to write her SAGES Capstone Paper on clinic workers in Botswana who acted as Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) counselors. Through these experiences Devyn developed a deep interest in the health of women and children.

With the goal of further developing her expertise in the area, Devyn joined the Peace Corps in Malawi. She is posted in a village in the southern region of the country and will be teaching math and science in the local schools. Devyn spent her first week officially on the job working with teachers to plan the schedule, lessons, and figuring out how to use the textbooks that are available to them.

Devyn described learning to live in a house with no electricity or running water and added enthusiastically that she enjoys the company of her neighbors and fellow villagers. She noted, “I have started thinking about some health-related projects [that] I can tackle in addition to my teaching. For example, given the number of mosquito nets that I can see being used to protect vegetable gardens, a bed net use survey and malaria education project of some sort might be interesting.”


“I have started thinking about some health-related projects [that] I can tackle in addition to my teaching...”

She reflects that her anthropology background is proving to be very useful in her day-to-day life. Devyn is blogging at: about her experiences during her two-year stay in Malawi. Upon completing her service in the Peace Corps, Devyn will enter a MPH program at either University of Michigan or Columbia University. Both programs offered her deferrals for the duration of the Peace Corps service.

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Amy Blue

Amy Blue (CWRU 1991) was named Associate Dean for Educational Affairs and Associate Vice President for Interprofessional Education at the University of Florida (UF) College of Public Health and Health Professions. She is also currently acting Interim Department Chair of the Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health at UF.

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Joseph Galanek

Joseph Galanek (CWRU 2012), a research associate at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education, published an article this past September in the Medical Anthropology Quarterly. The article, “Correctional Officers and the Incarcerated Mentally Ill: Responses to Psychiatric Illness in Prison” describes Joe’s observations and interviews derived from a cumulative nine month research study he conducted in a maximum-security prison to learn first-hand how the prison manages inmates with mental illness. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.

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Michelle Nebergall

Michelle Nebergall (CWRU 2014) and her family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa this past October where she is working as a Vaccine Trials Manager with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN). HVTN is the world’s largest publicly funded multi-disciplinary international collaboration facilitating the development of vaccines to prevent HIV/AIDS.

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Sarah Williams-Blangero

Sarah Williams-Blangero (CWRU 1987), formerly chair of the Department of Genetics at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, was recently appointed as director of the new South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute. Sarah will lead the institute bringing researchers and support staff, which will include John Blangero (CWRU 1987) and Sandra Laston (CWRU 1992), to work with her throughout the Rio Grande Valley. The research will focus on several facets of diabetes and obesity and will work closely with the community, work with existing diabetes researchers, and work in collaboration with other institutions. The new institute, affiliated with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley medical school, will also provide great training opportunities for students.


“We feel this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to become involved with a brand new medical school and to focus our research on the local community in addition to having an impact on some of the most pressing public health problems facing our whole nation today.”


As quoted by Williams-Blangero in an article featured in the online News and Information source for the University of Texas at Brownsville entitled “First Director of South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute Announced for UTRGV.”


UTRGV President Dr. Guy Bailey speaks during a press conference where Dr. Sarah Williams-Blangero is announced as the director of the UTRGV South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute on Monday, October 13, 2014 at Salon Cassia in Brownsville, Texas.
Paul Chouy / UT Brownsville



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