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Notre Dame Anthropologists and Undergrads Present at AAA Conference

Author: Carrie Gates

Agustín Fuentes Anthropology Professor Agustín Fuentes

Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology made a strong showing at the 2013 conference of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Chicago. Thirteen faculty members, along with seven undergraduate students, were invited to present at the annual event. This year’s theme was “Future Publics, Current Engagements.”

“Presenting at the AAA is part and parcel of being an anthropologist, says Professor Agustín Fuentes, chair of the department. “It’s the way in which we get our word, our data, our opinions, and our influence out into the discipline. And the fact that the majority of our department presents there every year means that Notre Dame anthropology is putting its stamp on the discipline.”

The presentations, Fuentes notes, “are also shaping the students and colleagues out there listening. While publication is very important, it is in the talks and the discussions afterward where you really get to put on display your thoughts, your ideas, and your research—and influence colleagues around the world.”

For the November 2013 event, Fuentes and a colleague from Saint Louis University organized a cutting-edge session on the new wave of biological anthropology. The collaborative aspect of such presentations is particularly gratifying, Fuentes says, noting that three Notre Dame anthropologists presented in that session alone.

Undergraduate students from the University’s College of Arts and Letters also presented at the AAA on a wide range of topics, from social mobility in Guatemala City and medical education in Rwanda to Irish language and identity in Beaver Island, Mich.

megan_heeder_200 Megan Heeder presents her research

“To be presenting alongside the foremost anthropologists in the U.S. was a humbling and awe-inspiring experience,” says junior Megan Heeder. Her research, exhibited during the conference’s poster session, was titled “Texting: The Cnxn Btwn Generations.” She analyzed the types of language used in text messages and how it varied among different generations.

“To have my ideas respected, discussed, and challenged in a positive manner was enlightening and thrilling,” she says. “I am so grateful to all those at Notre Dame who made this experience possible for undergraduates.”

Undergraduate participation in this and other conferences throughout the year is a “centerpiece of our anthropology program,” Fuentes says. “Notre Dame has a long history of doing it extremely well, and now that we’re launching the graduate program we are looking to expand that.

“I think the opportunities for our undergraduate students are only going to increase as we bring on really talented graduate students.”

Notre Dame’s Ph.D. in anthropology program is set to begin in fall 2014 and has already garnered a positive response. A reception the department held at the AAA conference to formally launch the program was expected to draw approximately 50 attendees—more than 140 showed up, according to Fuentes. More than 90 students applied for admission to the Ph.D. program’s inaugural class.

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