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Letter from the Department Head

Welcome to our revised webpage including this, our department’s first electronic newsletter.  For the Department of Sociology and Anthropology 2009-2010 was a banner year.  Our year began with the addition of four assistant professors—two anthropologists and two sociologists.   

Dr. Richard Lawler, Ph.D., Yale University, is a biological anthropologist with expertise in primate behavioral ecology, population genetics, and evolutionary theory. 

Dr. Joshua Linder, Ph.D., City University of New York, is a biological anthropologist with expertise in primate ecology, conservation biology, tropical forest ecology and protected area management. 

Joining the sociology faculty are Drs. Kerry Dobransky and Matthew Ezzell. 


Dr. Kerry Dobranksy, Ph.D., Northwestern University, specializes in medical sociology, sociology of mental health, health/social policy, qualitative and historical methods. 

Dr. Matthew Ezzell, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has expertise in symbolic interaction, social psychology, race/class/gender inequality, sociology of education and qualitative methods.

Sociology and Anthropology majors continue to excel in scholarly pursuits, presenting their research at our department’s spring symposium, at  regional and national conferences, and publishing with faculty in leading professional journals.  The Sociology and Anthropology faculty in 2008-2010 received over $600,000 in research grants and contracts and among their numerous publications are five authored or co-authored books in print, in press, or under contract:

  • Keo Cavalcanti
    Latinos in Dixie:  Class and Assimilation in Richmond Virginia.  State University of New York Press. 2009
  • Keo Cavalcanti
    Liberal Church, Traditional Congregations:  UCC Identify in the Shenandoah Valley. Lexington Books.  In press
  • Clarence Geier
    Historical Archaeology of Military Sites:  Method and Topics.  Texas A&M Press.  In press
  • Laura Lewis
    History, Race and Place in the Making of Black Mexico.  Duke University Press. Under contract.
  • Imani, N. O.-R. Head Games: Decolonizing the Psychotherapeutic Process. Lanham, Maryland, USA: University Press of America

Over the past half century more than 2,600 sociology and anthropology majors have graduated from JMU.  During this time our department has undergone many changes.  So, let me briefly describe our current curriculums.  Anthropology has evolved into one of the most comprehensive undergraduate programs in the country—offering concentrations in cultural, biological and archaeological anthropology.  These concentrations are attracting excellent students including transfer students throughout the U.S.  The concentrations also facilitate more interdisciplinary work.  Anthropology jointly sponsors a minor in Historical Archaeology with the Department of History and our Biological Anthropologists have a working relationship with students and faculty from the physical sciences.

In 2002 the Sociology Program received the first “Distinguished Contributions To Teaching Award” by the Southern Sociological Society.  Since that time the program has made innovative changes to its curriculum by offering concentrations that reflect the changes in 21st century sociology and employment.  These concentrations are:

  • Environment, Technologies and Innovation
  • Political and Global Analysis
  • Community Action and Evaluations
  • Markets and Cultures
  • Social Inequality and Public Policy

Also, a capstone course, Senior Seminar, is required of all majors and the capstone experience has been expanded to include an approved internship or an advanced seminar in a special topics area.  The inclusion of an internship meets the university’s initiative of service learning while providing our majors with an invaluable experience as they transition from the classroom to the workplace.

These changes in the anthropology and sociology curriculums reflect, in part, the university wide emphasis on published scholarship.  To remain at JMU our faculty must author books and publish in peer-reviewed journals.  This has resulted in more opportunities for our students and the quality of teaching is even stronger than before.  The research interests of our faculty have led to student abroad opportunities in Kenya and Dominica and field schools in Virginia (Montpelier) and the American Southwest for students interested in archaeology.  There has also been a steady increase in the number of our majors who are doing honors theses and independent studies devoted to student initiated research.  This year nine sociology and anthropology students presented research at national and regional conferences and two others co-authored with different faculty publications forthcoming in peer-reviewed journals.  This research experience is valuable for students as they apply for jobs or begin graduate study.

This past year saw many sociology and anthropology graduates gain admission to prestigious graduate and professional schools or enter careers in the public and private sphere.  The feedback that our alumni provide indicates that they feel better prepared than their colleagues in graduate school or on the job.

If we are to continue to provide our majors with this edge and continue to create and implement innovative educational opportunities we need to foster partnerships with you, our alumni and friends.  Partnerships provide important opportunities for alumni and friends involvement including:  dialogue with our current students, providing access to data for analysis, directing internships, job networking and donating.  When incoming students and their parents ask, “What can I do with a sociology or anthropology major?” who better to answer that question than our alumni and friends?

We ask that you consider the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and/or our current scholarships for annual giving.  Your gifts to our department’s foundation account will assist us greatly in providing scholarships to attract JMU’s best students to our majors and create a student development fund for undergraduate research projects, student travel to national and regional conferences, paid internships and special events including the return to campus by alumni for talks, workshops and presentations.  Our desire to partner with our alumni and friends is genuine; so, if you are not able to give this year, keep us in mind for future giving and, for now, visit the alumni link on our web page and provide us with up to date information about yourself.  Where are you now living and working?  What have your experiences been since leaving JMU?  If you are ever in the Harrisonburg area, give us a call or drop by, our doors are open.

Keep in touch,

Timothy J. Carter

Department Head

Sociology and Anthropology

Alumni Page - Donations