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Letter from the Department Head

Greetings! Again this year I am pleased to share with you some of the many successes enjoyed by our faculty and students

 during the 2010-2011 academic year. Before I do, however, I would like to acknowledge changes in our faculty. Last year closed with the departure of Dr. Joe Rumbo, who is now teaching at Texas State University. We will miss Dr. Rumbo for sure and we all wish him our best. Looking ahead, we are excited to welcome Dr. Kimiko Tanaka to our sociology faculty. Dr.

 Tanaka received her PhD from Michigan State University in 2008. She was a Post Doctoral Fellow at the University of Wisconsin from 2008-2010. She joins our department from the Rochester Institute of Technology where she was an Assistant Professor of Sociology. Her areas of expertise include the Sociology of Health, Aging and Life Course, Demography and Quantitative Methodology.

During 2010-2011 the Sociology and Anthropology faculty taught over 5,000 students including 122 students in independent studies, internships, research practica and honor theses. Our faculty had four books in print or in press, 12 peer reviewed articles in print or accepted for publication in our disciplines leading journals. Our faculty also received $280,000 in new grants.

Special congratulations are due to Dr. Amy Paugh who received the College of Arts and Letters 2011-2012 Madison Scholar Award. We would also like to highlight some of the many student accomplishments, honors and awards during the 2010-2011 academic year. To begin, anthropology major Devyn Hunter was selected as the Flag Bearer for the College of Arts and Letters spring 2011 Graduation Ceremony. Devyn achieved the highest grade point average in the College. Congratulations Devyn, and thank you for this high honor.

Also in spring 2011 eight sociology and anthropology students were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society; eight sociology majors joined Alpha Kappa Delta, sociology’s International Honor Society; and ten anthropology majors joined anthropology’s National Honor Society, Lambda Alpha. accomplishments, honors and awards during the 2010-2011 academic year. To begin, anthropology major Devyn Hunter was selected as the Flag Bearer for the College of Arts and Letters spring 2011 Graduation Ceremony. Devyn achieved the highest grade point average in the College. Congratulations Devyn, and thank you for this high honor.

Our department’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposium and Honor Reception was a great success. Nine sociology and anthropology students presented their research and nine students received the following honors:

  • Carl L. Harter Memorial ScholarshipDaniel Singer

  • Cecil D. Bradfield Memorial ScholarshipEmily Elliot

  • Kay Veith Field Archaeology AwardLauren Gryctko

  • Outstanding Senior Sociology StudentCory Caswell

  • Outstanding General Anthropology StudentGarrett Stern

  • Outstanding Senior Anthropology StudentDevyn Hunter

  • Outstanding Archaeology StudentKatie Cross

  • Outstanding Biological Anthropology StudentJason Knight

  • Outstanding Cultural Anthropology StudentColby Bohn


Beyond the boundaries of the JMU community many of our majors participated in our study abroad programs. Let me begin with our newest study abroad program in Cameroon. Dr. Josh Linder took four JMU students (and two students from universities in New York) to Cameroon in West Africa for a four week trip to explore the social and biological dimensions of wildlife conservation. This challenging but rewarding program helped students understand the complexities of protecting endangered species and habitats and learn about different cultures and worldviews. Dr. Linder will be running this program again in May 2012. If you are interested, please contact him at linderjm@jmu.edu.

Dr. Laura Lewis took a group of Anthropology, Sociology, IDLS and International Affairs students to London where they stayed at Commonwealth Hall, the University of London, in the center of the city. Their studies included numerous outings, including to Liverpool, a port city and home to the International Slavery Museum (as well as to the Beatles!), several visits to Brixton, the historical “heart” of Afro-Caribbean London, Westminster Abbey, where British abolitionists are buried, and a final blow-out dinner of curried goat, ackee (a Jamaican fruit), fried plantains, fish and jerk chicken at the Mango Room in Camden Town. Students also did independent studies on contemporary race issues in Britain, including in the media, the politics of hair, education, religion in the colonies, the rise of scientific racism in the 19th century, and the changing nature of Brixton market (a series of covered arcades recently given protected architectural status). They also traveled during their free time to Ireland, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Dr. Lewis will run the program again in the summer of 2012. If you are interested, please contact her at lewis2la@jmu.edu. Credit is given for Sociology and/or Anthropology, and can double-count for Latin American and Caribbean Studies or Africana Studies.

The Kenya Field School ran twice in 2011 with 34 engaged students from 15 different universities. During the 6-week programs, each student earned 9-credit hours studying Kiswahili and learning about histories and cultures (and contested histories and changing cultures) of Kenya, human-environment interactions and the quest for sustainability, and formal and informal education. Students explored these and more through site visits, homestays, lectures, readings, Kiswahili lessons, and original research. After completing the Kenya Field School, eight students also undertook month-long internships, specializing in education, public health, or environmental sustainability and appropriate technology, while earning an additional 6-credit hours each. For more information, please contact the Kenya Field School Director, Dr. Jennifer Coffman at coffmaje@jmu.edu.

Also in the summer of 2011, ten students participated in the 26th Archaeological Field School conducted by the department at James Madison’s Montpelier. This summer’s work focused on expanding an understanding of the slave community that occupied the “South Yard” during the time of Madison’s presidency. Excavations focused on the site of a set of known slave quarters and associated support structures.

In addition to the JMU Archaeological Field School, 11 JMU students and recent alumni carried out cultural resource studies at the Cedar Creek Battlefield. At Cedar Creek particular attention was paid to documenting a series of farmsteads belonging to J.D. Tabler at the time of the highly significant Civil War battle of October 19, 1864. Also, the cavalry encampment of the Union 1st Division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt was located. This vast 150 acre site along Meadow Marsh Run, lay on the right flank of General Philip Sheridan’s encamped army that was attacked by the Confederate Army of the Valley commanded by General Jubal Early. The cavalry forces of the 1st Division played a significant role in stopping the Confederate advance and then defeating that force. If you are interested in the field school at Montpelier or the Cedar Creek Battle site contact Dr. Clarence Geier at geiercr@jmu.edu.

The number of study abroad opportunities and the number of student participants continues to grow. As previously mentioned, last year 122 students received individualized instruction through independent studies, internships and honors theses. This means that about one third of our department majors are engaged with faculty in an individualized learning experience each year. This is more than any other academic unit in the College of Arts and Letters.

In our ongoing effort to reconnect with alumni last year we sent emails and post cards inviting alumni to learn more about sociology and anthropology at JMU by visiting our web page. Many responded, but we would like to hear from all our alumni. So, please visit the alumni page and provide us with up-to-date information about yourself. Where are you now living and working? Have you continued your education and, if so, in what field? What have your experiences been since leaving JMU?

Also, we ask that you consider the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and our scholarship for annual giving. Giving to our foundation account will assist us greatly in providing scholarships to attract JMU’s best students to our majors and create a student development fund to support undergraduate research, student travel to national and regional conferences, paid internships and special events including the return to campus by alumni for talks, presentations and workshops. Every dollar given will go directly to supporting the educational and scholarly experiences of our majors.

If you are ever in the Harrisonburg area give us a call (540-568-6171) or drop by Sheldon 123; our doors are open.

~Tim Carter

Department Head

Professor of Sociology