Name: Pamela Rae Willoughby
Present Position: Associate Professor of Anthropology
Organization: University of Alberta
Address: Department of Anthropology
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2H4
Telephone: (780) 492-0138
FAX: (780) 492-5273
Chapter Affiliation: University of Alberta
Candidate's Statement: I have just completed my first of two years as a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer; I traveled to five chapters, four in the USA as well as to Memorial University in Newfoundland, a part of my country I had not visited before. I have been grateful for the opportunity to meet with other Sigma Xi members as well as to discuss my research. In my conversations, I see similar concerns: aging membership, how to recruit new members, the role and mentorship of students, and what programs and activities should be organized or sponsored by a chapter. There is also the issue of the purpose of a general science organization in the 21st century, when every discipline seems to be getting more and more specialized. Sigma Xi is an inclusive group, and offers a unique broad perspective on the scientific enterprise. If I was elected to serve as the Associate Director, Northwest Region, I would do my best to heighten the visibility of Sigma Xi at the institutions in this region which have chapters. I would also work to communicate better between chapter members and executives. This might involve joint sponsorship of lecturers, exchange visits, or other initiatives created at the local level, as well as mediating between chapters and the central administration.
Sigma Xi and Other Activities: I have been a full member of Sigma Xi since 2000, and am currently a Distinguished Lecturer (2001 to 2003). I was the Vice President of the University of Alberta Chapter of Sigma Xi in 2001/02 and will be the Chapter President for 2002/03. Other activities: since 1994 I have been the editor of Nyame Akuma, the research bulletin of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists. I was a founding member (1994) and have served since 1997 as chair of the northern Alberta selection committee for the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation, an organization which gives university entrance awards to graduating high school students based on leadership and community service. We also screen Canadian candidates for the John Motley Morehead award at the University of North Carolina.
Biographical Information: I am a Canadian and was born in 1952 in Kingston, Ontario, a city close to the border of upstate New York. I have a BA from Trent University, MA from the University of Alberta, and PhD from UCLA (1985), all in anthropology. I am a palaeoanthropologist interested in human origins and evolution, from both biological and cultural perspectives. My specialization is in Palaeolithic, or Old Stone Age, archaeology, and I direct a field project on Upper Pleistocene and Holocene prehistory (approximately the last 200,000 years) in the Western or Albertine Rift of Tanzania. In Africa, this is the period of the evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. Until the late 1980s, it was assumed that we evolved throughout Eurasia and Africa around the same time, 40,000 years ago. The appearance of such biologically modern humans was associated with a great change in technology and cultural adaptation. But now we know that the first modern humans are associated with an earlier stage in Africa, the Middle Palaeolithic or Middle Stone Age, where few unique cultural innovations are observed. So there is a new debate on the nature of adaptation of these early people, especially in comparison with coeval humans such as the Eurasian neandertals. I am currently completing a book manuscript addressing these issues for AltaMira Press in California. At the University of Alberta, I teach courses in Palaeolithic archaeology, human evolution, archaeological method and theory, and an introduction to human variation (race and ethnicity). While there may not seem to be a direct connection between my research and issues of race and racism, the reinterpretation of genetic and fossil evidence shows the fundamental unity of all people. It reinforces the notion that "race" is a social concept and has little biological significance.
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