Anthropology & Sociology

West Chester University

News & Notes

Welcome to the 2015-16 academic year!

Check out what our faculty, students, and alumni have been up to recently:

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SPRING 2016:

Dr. Lisa Ruchti was invited to participate in a high school student-led conference on human trafficking in Brooklyn based on her study “Fear, Fraud, and Frank Complexities: The Influence of Gender on Human Trafficking,” which was published as a chapter in Human Trafficking Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2013, Routledge). Click here to find out more about the conference.

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Anthropology students James Kresge and Rachael Marks worked on an archaeology survey in the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge over winter break.

Male and female student measuring a hole in the ground

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FALL 2015:

Students in Dr. Jackie Zalewski's SOC 200 class wrote letters to the editor this semester about topics related to social problems. Congratulations to student Rhiannon Schroepfer, whose letter, "Princess fixation: Let it go," was published Dec. 10 in the Philadelphia Inquirer! See it in print below and read it online here.

newspaper clipping about movie Frozen

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American Anthropology Association

Congratulations to Dr. Paul Stoller and Dr. Michael Di Giovine, who were recognized for their accomplishments at the first Presidential Awards Ceremony at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting, held in Denver this November. Dr. Stoller received the prestigious Anthropology in the Media award, which was presented by AAA President Monica Heller, who especially complimented his versatile work, including the evocative books he writes and the public anthropology blog he maintains on The Huffington Post. Dr. Di Giovine was recognized for his work on the president's Task Force on Cultural Heritage.


  American Anthropology Association     American Anthropology Association

  Anthropology students Erica Walters and Shane Metivier presented research projects as part of a

  poster session at the AAA meeting. Congrats!

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Research Day

  Research Day

 Mollie speaks with a WCU faculty member in nursing.      

Research Day




        Several department students participated in

     the university's Research Day on Nov. 10,

     including sociology students Heather Welsh 

     and Mollie McElroy, who presented a poster,

     "Where Do Our Majors Go? Knowledge That Can

     Help Shape Curriculum Planning, Academic and

     Career Advising, and Pedagogy in Sociology."

Heather speaks with Mark Pavlovich, vice president for
Advancement and Sponsored Research at WCU.

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More than 100 students, including sociology major Andrea Koch and sociology minor Leah Okunoye, participated in WCU's inaugural Women's Leadership Conference on Nov. 7. Dr. Julie B. Wiest helped plan and run the event, along with Women's Center Director Alicia Hahn-Murphy and Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Involvement Jackie Aliotta. Dr. Lisa Ruchti led a group discussion at the end of the conference to help attendees reflect on their experiences and look toward the future.

2015 Women's Leadership Conference collage

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Anthropology students Deryn Fink and Heather Davis assisted with National Park Service excavations on Nov. 6 at an 18th-century site in the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. They will be working on the project through December.

Anthropology News 110815

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Lambda Alpha Nu, our chapter of the Anthropology Honors Society, has been selected as November's University Excellence Organization for members' work organizing and executing the clothing drive called "Layers for Liberia." They were able to fill more than six 55-gallon fiber barrels with clothing for children and adults. In addition, with help from Rotary International (West Grove/Avondale and Longwood divisions), the students have nearly met their goal of covering the shipping and duty costs of clothes collected. In addition, several members were interviewed for the Nov. 16 edition of the campus TV show "WCU Weekly." Watch it here (the interview begins at 9:54).

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As part of the second-annual Social Innovation in a Digital Context event, 13 social and digital innovators from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, along with two U.S. scholars, discussed projects they developed that use digital technologies to promote sociopolitical change. The event was held Oct. 16 at the PASSHE @ Center City campus in downtown Philadelphia and was organized by Dr. Julie B. Wiest and Dr. Miguel Ceballos in partnership with Lund University in Sweden. Dozens of WCUPA students were in attendance. More information about the 2015 SIDC event can be found here.

2015 SocialInnovation in a Digital Context collage

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Graduate student Mohammed Kaba is heading to Liberia in December to distribute clothing and monetary contributions recently collected on campus. In addition, he has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for shipping barrels for the clothing donations and to pay for international shipping costs to Liberia.

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Anthropology students got some great field experience on Sept. 19 by excavating at a public archaeology event at the Newlin Grist Mill in Glen Mills, PA.

Arch Fest 2015

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The Office of Graduate Studies, in conjunction with the College of Arts and Sciences, awarded funds to
Dr. Michael Di Giovine
to hire Mohammed D. Kaba, a recent anthropology alumnus and current graduate student in public health, as his Graduate Assistant to help with ongoing research at the National Center for Padre Pio in Barto, PA. Mohammed is conducting archival and ethnographic research at the shrine, focusing on alternate healing practices associated with popular devotion to the Catholic saint.

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SUMMER 2015:

Dr. Lisa Ruchti, along with several student assistants, worked on a project that examines the intersections of racism, sexism, and homophobia experienced by women of color college students on campus. Over the summer, she and student Caitlin Brown participated in the second-annual WCU Student Undergraduate Research Institute, for which they conducted interviews with women of color students and began to create an analytic scheme using Dedoose.

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The Department of Anthropology & Sociology mourns the passing on Aug. 3, 2015, of Dr. Rob Lukens, president of the Chester County Historical Society. Dr. Heather Wholey and Dr. Michael Di Giovine continue to collaborate with the CCHS on a variety of projects, including curatorial training for the department’s Museum Techniques class. Dr. Di Giovine recently was featured on Dr. Lukens’ radio show, "Passing Time with Dr. Rob," on WCHE 1520 AM. He will be missed. Read more about his life and work.

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Dr. Leon Arredondo traveled with anthropology students Erica Walters, Stephanie Crawford, Mark Morris, and Lech Zapata-Rotz (not pictured) during Spring and Summer 2015 to Medellin, Colombia, to conduct archival research on the history of collective social action in the city’s industrial center of Itagüi. The project was funded by a grant from the West Chester University Foundation, with additional support from the Greater Philadelphia Latin American Studies Consortium. Check out a few photos from their travels:

Columbia 2015 Collage

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Dr. Rebecca Chancellor and Dr. Aaron Rundus (psychology) led their second study abroad trip to Rwanda over the summer. Anthropology major Melissa Waltimyer was among the students who attended this year. Students even got the chance to appear on CNN, as several were interviewed for a story on community tourism in Rwanda. Watch it here.

students holding WCU flag on hillside

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Department faculty members have been very busy lately! Here are some of their recent accomplishments:

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Professor Emeritus Dr. Marshall Becker has numerous publications to report: 

  • 2015a Ancient Maya Markets: Architectural Grammar and Market Identification. Pages 90-110 in, The Ancient Maya Marketplace: The Archaeology of Transient Space, edited by Eleanor M. King. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Read it here.
  • 2015b Native Mail Carriers in Early America. Postal History Journal, Number 160: 16-27.
  • 2015c Lenopi Land Use Patterns in Central New Jersey During the Late Woodland Period as Inferred from a Deed of 1710. Newsletter of the Archaeological Society of New Jersey, No. 247 (March): 3-5.
  • 2015d Native American Bags and Pouches: Some Notes on Puzzle Pouches and Their Makers. New York State Archaeological Association Newsletter 11 (1): 4-8.
  • 2014a  Ethnohistory of the Lower Delaware Valley: Addressing Myths in the Archaeological Interpretations of the Late Woodland and Contact Periods. Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology 30: 41-54.
  • 2014b  Lenape ("Delaware") in the Early Colonial Economy: Cultural Interactions and the Slow Processes of Culture Change Before 1740. Northeast Anthropology 81-82: 109-129.
  • 2014c  John Skickett (1823? – After 1870): A Lenopi Descent Basketmaker Working in Connecticut. Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut 76: 99-118.
  • 2014d  Dentistry in Ancient Rome: Direct Evidence for Extractions Based on the Teeth from Excavations at the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum. International Journal of Anthropology 29 (4): 209-226. Click here for a recent Forbes article that mentions this work.
  • 2014e Tophets and their Functions: Clues from Human Skeletal Remains at Mozia, Sicily of the Late VIII – Early VII Centuries BCE. International Journal of Anthropology 29 (1-2): 13-25.
  • 2014f Plaza Plans and Settlement Patterns: Regional and temporal distributions as indicators of cultural interactions in the Maya Lowlands. Revista Españolade Antropología Americana 44 (2): (In press) 
  • 2014g Ancient Maya Markets: A Critique of Methods for Detection. THE CODEX (Pre-Columbian Society at The University Museum) 22 (1-2): 3-16.
  • 2014h Meggeckosjou: Identifying a Location Noted in 1659 as a Clue to Routes Taken Across New Jersey by Native Runners from the South River to New Amsterdam. Newsletter of the Archaeological Society of New Jersey 244 (May): 7-9.
  • 2014i Grace The Herbalist: Folk Medicine in a Tropical Forest and Anthropological Field Work. THE CODEX (Pre-Columbian Society at The University Museum; Philadelphia) 22 (3): 3-24.

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Dr. Michael A. Di Giovine has much to report:

  • In May, he participated in a WCU delegation to Turkey that included 10 faculty members from across campus (see photos below). Coordinated by the Office of International Programs in conjunction with the Philadelphia-based Peace Islands Institute, the WCU-Turkey initiative aimed to explore and deepen international partnerships and student opportunities for study, exchange, and enrollment with a number of diverse universities across Turkey, many of which are newly founded institutions. The itinerary was packed with five university visits in Istanbul, Kayseri, Izimir and Ankara, as well as visits to an array of cultural and historical sites such as Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, Ephesus, and the early Christian cave-churches of Cappadocia. Along with Associate Dean Hyoejin Yoon and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Urban (history), Dr. Di Giovine will present future plans for fostering student and faculty exchange to the College of Arts and Sciences community in September. The team welcomes suggestions for engagement from students and faculty.

  Group sitting on step in front of Mountain  Group standing on steps in front of temple

Group standing in front of temple ruins

TOP LEFT: The group sits at the Early Christian cave settlements of Cappadocia. TOP RIGHT: The group stands in front of Istanbul University with Vice Dean of Education Dr. Lütfü Ilgar, who previously was a visiting scholar at WCU. BOTTOM: The group standsin front of the library at Ephesus.

  • Dr. Di Giovine was inducted as an Expert Member of the International Cultural Tourism Committee within ICOMOS, the International Council of Monuments and Sites. ICOMOS is the historic preservation advisory body to UNESCO.
  • He was appointed a regional representative within the tourism section of IUAES, the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Scientists.
  • He was awarded a WCU College of Arts and Sciences Student Engagement Grant to develop an ethnographic field school in Perguia, Italy, next summer through the Umbra Institute. He is looking forward to taking WCU students to central Italy to research culinary heritage in this gastronomic mecca. Check back: More information will be announced.
  • He gave an interview about Padre Pio and miracles that was published online Sept. 23, which is Padre Pio’s feast day. Read it here.
  • He published chapters in four books, including his first publication in Italian:
    • When Popular Religion becomes Elite Heritage: Tensions and Transformations at the Shrine of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. In Helaine Silverman and Mike Robinson (eds.), Encounters with Popular Pasts: Cultural Heritage and Popular Culture. NY: Springer Publications, pp. 31-47.
    • UNESCO’s World Heritage Program: Challenges and Ethics of Community Participation. In N. Adell, R. Bendix, C. Bortolotto, M Tauschek (eds). Community and Participation: Core Concepts in Heritage Policy and Practice. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen Press, pp. 83-108. Read the open-access ebook here.
    • Un’ostensione controversa. Il culto di Padre Pio come campo di produzione culturale. In Dionigi Albera and Melissa Blanchard (eds). Pellegrini del Nuovo Millennio: Aspetti Economici e Politici delle Mobilita' Religiose. Messina: Mesogea, pp. 175-202.
    • Patrimonial Ethics and the Field of Heritage Production. In C. Gnecco and D. Lippart (eds.). Ethics and Archaeological Praxis. NY: Springer, pp. 201-227.
  • In other publishing news, reviews of the two books he published last academic year have been positive. Read a recent review of Edible Identities: Food as Cultural Heritage from the Anthropology of Food journal here and from AllegraLab here. Read a review of Tourism and the Power of Otherness: Seductions of Difference from the Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change here.

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Dr. Aliza Richman presented a poster titled "Chronic Inflammation at the Intersection of Race, Gender, and Socioeconomic Status: The Mediating Effects of Composite Health Lifestyles" at the 2015 Population Association of American conference in San Diego.

Dr. Richman also won a College of Arts and Sciences Student Engagement Grant to explore study abroad opportunities for WCU students in Ghana. Last July, she traveled to Accra to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Ghana, and she reports that the meetings were productive. Any students interested in a faculty-led, summer study abroad trip should contact Dr. Richman

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Dr. Lisa Ruchti received a WCU Foundation FaStR grant for 2016 to fund her research project “Invisible Survivals: The Resistance of Women of Color College Students,” which examines the success and struggle of women of color college students at WCU. If you or someone you know would like to participate, find more information here.


In addition, Dr. Ruchti was awarded a Student Engagement Grant this summer to fund three student research assistants (Caitlin, Christa Rivers, and Samantha Jeune) during the fall semester. The team is collecting additional interviews with women of color students and also conducting observations at campus events that address these issues. The team will continue to analyze and write up the data during Dr. Ruchti’s sabbatical this spring. This research will result in Dr. Ruchti’s second book and a policy-oriented report to be shared with WCU administration. If you are a woman of color student and would like to participate in the project, email Dr. Ruchti.

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Dr. Paul Stoller has exciting news to report:Book cover titled Climbing the Mountain

  • He published a book in August with Mitchell Stoller called Climbing the Mountain: Cancer, Exercise and Well-Being with Meyer and Meyer Publishers (London and Berlin). Check it out here.
  • He attended a conference in June called “Xenophobia and Epidemics”
    at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy (see photo below right).
  • He received two prominent awards recently:
    • The American Anthropological Association’s 2015 Anthropology
      in the Media Award
    • A Holsworth Visiting Professorship at the University of Manchester (in the U.K.) for Spring 2016
  • He has given invited talks at a variety of venues recently:
    • He gave the keynote address, “Storytelling,
      religion, and the contours of well-being,”
      at Hillside with buildings and mountains the annual PASSHE Undergraduate
      Anthropology ResearchConference,
      which was held April 25-26 at Bloomsburg
    • He was interviewed for a video that was produced in response to an invitation from
      the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography at
      York University in Toronto, Canada. Part
      of the center's Imaginings Project, his talk focuses on how anthropologists might
      respond anthropologically to current events. Watch it here.
  • Be sure to check out reviews of Dr. Stoller's 2014 book, Yaya's Story! Click here to read a review in the journal Current AnthropologyClick here to
    read a review in the London School of Economics and Political Science's Review of BooksClick here to read a review in the journal Cultural Anthropology.

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Dr. Julie B. Wiest reports:

  • She has two publications in press that will be avialable this year:
    • Article: “Casting Cultural Monsters: Representations of Serial Killers in U.S. and U.K. News Media.” Howard Journal of Communications, 27.

    • Book chapter: “The Role of Mass Media in the Transmission of Culture.” Pp. 205-222 in Studies in Media and Communications. Vol. 11, (New) Media Cultures, edited by L. Robinson and S. Cotten. Bingley, Bradford, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.
  • She will participate in the weeklong 2016 CCI Digital Methods Summer School, held in February at the world-renowned QUT Digital Media Research Centre in Brisbane, Australia.
  • She will present the following papers at conferences this spring:
    • March: “New Media Mobilization: Theorizing Social Change in a Digital Age,” to be presented as part of the Social and Political Change through Social Media mini-conference at the 2016 annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society in Boston
    • April: “Fear and False Impressions: Public Perceptions of Serial Murder,” to be presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society in Atlanta 

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Dr. Jacqueline Zalewski reports:

  • She presented several papers at national sociology conferences recently:
    • “‘Chewed up’: Adversarial workplace interactions that result from in-house outsourcing” at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction in Chicago (August)
    • “Work, the job, and professional careers with outsourcing companies: Theorizing about job quality and loss” at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago (August)
    • “‘It worked out better for some’: Consent, resistance, and professional careers with outsourcing companies” at the annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society in New York City (February)
  • She received a second College of Arts and Sciences Student Engagement Grant to continue her research project entitled “Increasing student engagement with sociology and sociological research.” As part of the project, students enrolled in SOC 343: Sociology of Organizations are conducting guided survey research on the jobs, professional careers, and ongoing education of WCU sociology alumni.


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Be sure to check back often for department announcements and additional good news about our faculty and students. 

See you around Old Library!


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