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Anthropology Department Blog

2018 Global Health Anthropology Graduates

Posted: May 22nd, 2018 by dblom

This May 2018 eight of our Anthropology graduates completed the coursework needed for a global health focus in their major or minor.  Five of our seniors graduated with a Global Health Concentration in the Anthropology Major, including Siera Carusone, Alex Heeschen, Tabetha Luhn, Catie Owen, and Celina Rossier.  Three of our seniors graduated with a Global Health Focus in the Anthropology Minor, including Sarah Flaherty, Madeline Short, and Sonia Zaccheo.

Congratulations to all of our graduates for their hard work and careful planning!

In both the major concentration and the minor focus track, students complete all of the requirements for a regular Anthropology major or minor, while also making sure that a significant number of those courses focus on biological anthropology, medical anthropology, and/or global public health issues in cross-cultural perspective.

The department has offered courses in these areas for decades, but it was 2015 when we began to highlight related offerings in a set of informal tracks for majors and minors.  Based on the popularity of the focus, in 2017 we formally launched a Global Health Concentration in the Anthropology Major, which now stands alongside the continuing Global Health Minor Focus track.  For more information on studying Global Health in Anthropology at UVM, the links below provide helpful information:



Graduating Senior Profile: Alex Heeschen

Posted: May 21st, 2018 by dblom

submitted by Sofia Benito Alston (’21), UVM Anthropology CommTeam

Alex Heeschen is many things: hardworking, dedicated, intelligent, passionate and lively. This list clearly falls short, but provides an image of what he’s like. His UVM adventure began in 2014 and will be coming to a bittersweet end this May. When he arrived, Alex was a History major, but we all know what the Anthropology department is like: they lure you in and it becomes impossible to leave. He fell in love with the subject and quickly changed his major. History stayed a part of his life, but as a minor instead. It was anthropology professor Dr. Jeanne Shea who then helped him choose his concentration: global health.

Alex has very impressively managed to balance ROTC with his anthropology major, and has even found ways to bring them together. In his own words, anthropology is “extremely applicable to my current field of work. I’ve always been an ‘arts and soft sciences’ kind of person, and this felt like a field which blended the two together perfectly.” In one of his courses, Anthropology of Global Health (ANTH288), he designed a research proposal to study the effects of a team mentality in the military for seeking treatment for PTSD. When asked what impacts he felt anthropology had on ROTC, he had a lot to say: “I participated in a training exercise in Romania in the summer of 2016. Having a people-centered approach to the situations they presented us in training scenarios helped me communicate my ideas clearly and approach these situations with a broadened perspective. Being receptive and understanding of different ways of doing things are essential attributes for Army officers, and I truly believe that studying Anthropology has helped me develop the tools I need to succeed in this field.”

Alex being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, May 20, 2018

Alex had to learn how to balance his time between anthropology and ROTC, and, at times, it was complicated. Due to the strict training schedule imposed by the army, he was unable to carry out any summer research and felt he wasn’t able to take full advantage of all the academic opportunities available at UVM. However, this didn’t stop him from being an “anthropology cheerleader” around campus. He has spoken in many freshman classes and continually talks about the discipline in ROTC. How much he admires his academic home is clear in his praise: “The anthropology department gives you a great sense of community and is a very tight-knit group. The professors are real and approachable and are happy to help you along your college career path in any way they can.” He also spoke about some of his favorite courses such as Anthropology of Eastern Europe, Anthropology of Global Health, Archaeological Theory and Environmental Anthropology.

What’s next for Alex Heeschen, you may wonder? On June 9 of this year, he will report to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for five months of Field Artillery Officer Training. After that, on November 27, he will be reporting to Vilseck, Germany for his first assignment as part of the four-year active duty service obligation he owes the Army. After that, he hopes to get his Master’s Degree in Public Health and pursue a career in that field. He will be missed here at UVM, but we are all looking forward to seeing what incredible work he does in life. Good luck and goodbye Alex!


Congratulations to our 2018 Graduates!

Posted: May 20th, 2018 by dblom

Congratulations to our 2018 Department of Anthropology graduates as they line up for the ceremony.


Roisin Todd Receives Hannah Howard Prize and George Henry Perkins Award

Posted: May 19th, 2018 by dblom


submitted by Izzy Siedman, UVM Anthropology CommTeam





Haviland Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Anthropology: Catie Owen

Posted: May 18th, 2018 by dblom

submitted by Ava Benham (’18), UVM Anthropology CommTeam

Graduating senior Catie Owen has been awarded the W. A. Haviland Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Anthropology.  The Haviland Award is presented to a graduating senior who has demonstrated a strong commitment in finding solutions for real-world crises through the use of anthropological perspectives.

“I feel very honored to receive this award and have a lot of respect for the Anthropology Department here at UVM.  I have really found a sense of community within the department. It’s my home here… and think it is nice to know I am also seen as a member of this community. ”

Catie, who graduates with honors in Anthropology this weekend, explained that she had no idea what anthropology was until she got to college.  Some of the first conversations she had that were related to anthropology were on the topic of female genital mutilation (FGM) and cultural relativism. These conversations would take place among friends and individuals that lived in her dorm her first year in college.  “One of the girls on my hall was taking an anthropology class at the time and would come home with all of these interesting topics for debate. Often our hallway conversations turned to discussing the ethics surrounding the practice of FGM.”  She told me that these discussions helped spark an interest in Anthropology.

When Catie transferred to the University of Vermont as a sophomore, she decided to enroll in an introductory course in anthropology.  “I owe my commitment to Anthropology entirely to my professor Dr. Ben Eastman and his course in Cultural Anthropology.” She said that Ben was the one responsible for “converting” her to pursue the discipline.

In addition, another professor that greatly impacted her academic career was Dr. Jeanne Shea.  During the spring of her sophomore year, she took ANTH 174 Culture, Health and Healing. “I really liked how the course was more health-centered and could easily see real-world applications of anthropology where health was concerned.” This opened up some of her first conversations about brainstorming a thesis topic.  Jeanne’s role was also formative in the development of these ideas. “Jeanne Shea always has her door open to students who need guidance on coursework, independent projects, life advice… Throughout my time here she has helped shape my ideas about the world in many ways.”

“My thesis topic was about women’s agency and fulfillment in planned homebirths and planned cesarean births.” In her junior year, Catie studied abroad in Spain. “Jeanne Shea helped me plan around my time abroad so that I was able to conduct some preliminary research in London.”  Catie was able to meet with two prominent scholars whose research focuses on “women-centered” birthing techniques in planned cesareans, and these conversations helped ground the ethnographic research that she would conduct during her senior year.

“During my research, I conducted 11 interviews with providers and women who were having the types of births I was researching.”  The research focuses on women’s experiences of their births and how these experiences are culturally and socially influenced.

Catie feels that the importance of anthropology goes beyond the classroom and beyond academia.  “Anthropology is about sharing knowledge and deconstructing ethnocentric forms of thought.  I think it’s important to share that kind of thinking.  To me, anthropology is most about being a careful, kind, and conscientious person.”

One major leadership role Catie had was being a co-president of the Anthropology Club.  “One thing I really tried to do was initiate student outreach at Burlington High School.”  “I feel that it is important to expose young minds to anthropology and anthropological ways of thinking. I see a lot of potential for reconstructing the education system around anthropological principles.”  Sharing knowledge even with other students such as first- and second-year students is extremely important to her. She really enjoyed being a mentor and inspiring younger students during her time here with her passion for the discipline.

“I look at anthropology from a very moral perspective, even if that’s somehow a messy one.  That is why I am very passionate about it.  I see the future of Anthropology moving beyond academia, and looking for ways we can apply and cultivate these principals in young people.”

After graduation, Catie has plans to remain in Burlington and apply for jobs in the non-profit sector.  “I am definitely going to graduate school in the near future.  I want to continue to empower young people, especially young women – in whatever form that takes.”

James B. Petersen Archaeology Award: Sylvie Littledale

Posted: May 18th, 2018 by dblom

submitted by Sofia Benito Alston (’21), UVM Anthropology CommTeam

Sylvie Diana Littledale is this year’s recipient of the James B. Petersen Archaeology Award for an outstanding Anthropology graduate who is pursuing archaeology.

On April 16th, UVM celebrated its annual Student Research Conference where students get to discuss the research they have carried out. One of those students, Sylvie Diana Littledale, exhibited a poster on her fieldwork in to Peru and interactive maps she developed using GPS coordinates she collected throughout the trip.  Her supervising professor Dr. Deborah Blom reported, “Sylvie’s experiences have been invaluable in helping her to advance the research skills and anthropological theory that she learned at UVM to address important questions in anthropology and ethnohistory alike.  Her project has progressed from musings while abroad to a sophisticated and engaging thesis-length manuscript.”


After taking classes at UVM, Sylvie’s research began the summer after freshman year, in 2015, when she travelled down to Zaña, Peru with then UVM professor Dr. Parker Van Valkenburgh to work on his excavation site. She spent 2½ months there, during which time she met and worked with archaeologist Bradymir Bravo Meza. A year later, during her semester abroad in Argentina, she met with a colleague from Huarochirí and carried out archaeological surveys for a month. It was then she was first introduced to the Huarochiri Manuscript. The author is unknown, but speculated to be an indigenous scribe who wrote in Quechua using the Spanish alphabet. It is just very rare that a document of this type was written and survived.  It records oral histories such as myths, customs, festivals, conflicts and a rich geographical description of the area and terrain.  While Sylvie worked on the survey, she got to know the geography of the region and its many archaeological sites.

Sylvie’s fieldwork also allowed her to get to know the locals in the area, and she has been returning to this spot since 2016. Throughout the years, Sylvie began to form her own research project to collect oral traditions about place in different areas. Her original idea was to map the stories told to her, linking them to the Huarochirí manuscript, but the more time she spent getting to know the locals, the more her focus changed to modern legends. She worked in two villages with a total population of 47, including children, and spoke to all but one of the 29 adults there. Even though most stories told were told by more than one person, each individual had their own way of telling them.  Everyone was open and welcoming to her, excited about the opportunity at hand. To quote her directly “I hope that my gratitude to the communities of San Pedro de Llancha and San Antonio de Chinchina and to my colleagues down there, especially Bravo Meza, is expressed.”

Now all this sounds beautiful and poetic, but it was two months of very hard work. Planning for a trip this big is no easy task, so when she finally landed in Peru her plans were still very up in the air. She ended up staying in the local school, which was closed for summer vacations and had no bathroom or kitchen. Her diet consisted of potatoes, rice and noodles so you can all imagine that this past year back at UVM she has steered clear of all three. It was also during the rainy season so the trips between villages, or down to the city, would sometimes be impossible. The thick fog and heavy rains completely enveloped the villages. There’s no doubt that it was a very transformative experience for Sylvie.

Sylvie’s four years at UVM were also spread out elsewhere throughout the world as she studied abroad in Spain, Argentina and Hong Kong. “I was working on my Spanish in the first two places, but was able to focus more on anthropology in Hong Kong which is where I took a class “Making Places: Landscapes, Culture and Society” that was a big part of the inspiration to do the research I am doing now.” As Sylvie’s time at UVM is ending, an internship with UVM’s Consulting Archaeology Program (CAP), directed by anthropology Professor John Crock, has allowed her to build out her experience in the US. Sylvie is carrying out a variety of projects, including GIS training and working. “I worked cataloguing in the lab, I spent a lot of time working on processing data from previous sites in GIS, and I was able to go out in the field a few times.”


Sylvie will be graduating as a double major in Spanish and Anthropology, and will be moving to Utah to go to graduate school in Brigham Young University. The list of things she would like to do include doing more mapping, moving throughout Peru and working on doing a linguistic analysis. Here’s to a fantastic student that will be greatly missed!



Coffee break

Posted: May 7th, 2018 by sbenitoa

With the stress of finals it’s easy to forget to take care of oneself, so tomorrow (Tuesday) please stop by the anthropology department for some coffee and a nice pause. Good luck studying!

Graduates reception

Posted: May 7th, 2018 by sbenitoa

Hello all graduating anthropology seniors (and parents of graduates)! We would like to celebrate your accomplishment with a small reception in the Anthropology department shortly after the commencement ceremony. We hope to see you all there!

Bring Arabic back!

Posted: May 4th, 2018 by sbenitoa

One of our Anthropology major students, Ali Barritt, has created a petition to bring Arabic language courses back to UVM. The Arabic department was cut last spring and affected a number of students studying Arabic and Arab studies. Please sign the petition:



End of classes!

Posted: May 4th, 2018 by sbenitoa

It’s official! Classes for the 2017-2018 school year are over. Congratulations to all you wonderful students for surviving another year at UVM, and good luck with finals!

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