21 WWU students win awards from Center for a Public Anthropology

Western Washington University is home to 21 Public Anthropology Award winners from the Center for a Public Anthropology; all of them hail from Kathy Saunders' Anthropology 201 and Anthropology 253 Cultural Anthropology classes. The students participated in a North American competition involving more than 4,000 students from 28 schools.

The names of the WWU Public Anthropology Award winners, along with their award winning opinion pieces, are available here.

Here's the background to this story, from the Center for a Public Anthropology:

Through the work of various anthropologists, the Yanomami have become one of the best-known, if not the best-known, Amazonian Indian group in the world. Millions of students are introduced to anthropology through reading about them. Now, the Yanomami are pleading for the return of their relative’s blood as promised by researchers when taken during a research project in the late 1960s. Yanomami believe all parts of a deceased Yanomami must be disposed of so the dead can leave this world in peace rather than be forced to remain here among the living, disrupting their lives.

Pennsylvania State University and the National Cancer Institute possess many Yanomami blood samples and, in 2006, promised in writing to return them. The blood has not yet been returned, and students in Saunders' class were asked to decide whether they should encourage these public institutions to keep their word or whether they should leave this matter to others who are directly affected by the problem.

Saunders, a senior instructor at WWU, has played an integral part in Public Anthropology’s online student community, showcasing the ability of WWU students to learn effective writing skills while being active global citizens. She demonstrates how combining technology with cultural concerns in academic courses positively engages students to participate in the broader world beyond their university while gaining the skills needed for a productive, active life after graduation.

Saunders' research interests include the anthropology of science and technology, biomedical ethics and political economy. She emphasizes extensive writing in her large introductory courses, hoping to better prepare students for the rigor of upper division writing. She has been an important role in facilitating student participation in the compilation of the first-ever WWU's Whatcom County Community Food Assessment.

More information on Public Anthropology's Community Action Web site is available at http://www.publicanthropology.org/Yanomami/a-FAQs-Students.htm.