Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alumni Updates: Geoffrey Cain and Sophia Lungu

Geoffrey Cain (BA Intl Aff and Anth 2008), now living in Phnom Penh, has a new job with the United Nations as a correspondent for their humanitarian emergency service, IRIN ( His post is under the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. He is excited about the job because it allows him to write about issues he cares about -- organ trafficking, land grabbing, etc. -- and have an audience that includes major decision makers in the UN and NGOs.

Also, he recently published an article on the front page of the Far Eastern Economic Review:

Sophia Lungu (BA Anth and Intl Affairs 2007) has a new position as of August as BDC Executive Agent in the Pentagon's ODP (Office of Defense Policy), Office of European, NATO and Eurasian Policy. She works to make sure that Bilateral Defense Consultation meetings between the US and European and Eurasian allies run smoothly.

Hom Pal student Felicia Gomez honored by Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society

Fourth-year Hominid Paleobiology student Felicia Gomez was recently honored by the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, taking first place for a presentation of her genetics research at the Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity in Graduate Education.

For her Ph.D. dissertation, Gomez and her advisor, Dr. Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, are investigating the variability in African populations of two malaria susceptibility candidate genes and the role those genes may have played in recent human evolution.

The Bouchet Society is named for the first African-American doctoral recipient in the United States (Physics, Yale University, 1876). Its aim is to "promote diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate."

Gomez received her B.A. magna cum laude in biology and anthropology from Skidmore College and entered GW's Hominid Paleobiology Program in 2004.

Prof. Feldman wins Cultural Anthropology Prize

Ilana Feldman, Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Anthropology, has been awarded this year's Horizons Prize from the Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) for her article "Difficult Distinctions: Refugee Law, Humanitarian Practice, and Political Identification in Gaza."

Bruce Grant, president of the SCA, writes that "the Prize was designed to represent not only the best work in a given annual volume of the society's journal, Cultural Anthropology, but to more broadly identify the kinds of work seen by our doctoral student jury as emblematic of what is most needed in anthropologies ahead. The Prize comes with an honorarium of $500." The award will be formally presented at the SCA's annual business meeting in November.

More on the prize can be found at

More on Prof. Feldman can be found at

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nick Bluhm (BA 2008) employed at law firm

Nick Bluhm (5 year BA/MA-ID 2008) has just received a position at Cooley Godward Kronish as a Litigation Case Assistant.

Vincenzo Pasquantonio (BA 2004) produces videos on post-Katrina reconstruction

Vincenzo Pasquantonio (BA 2004) 's group, Levees.Org, recently produced two videos concerning post-Katrina reconstruction. They can be found on is an organization that advocates for additional investigation into the flood protection breakdowns that occurred during Hurricane Katrina. The organization looks to ensure a more effective response to future disasters and to the successful rebuilding of New Orleans.

For more information about Vincenzo's work, visit

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tom Kavanagh (MA 1980) is consulting anthropologist for Comanches

Tom Kavanagh (MA Anth 1980) has been appointed Consulting Anthropologist for the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. This summer he conducted the first part of a consultancy between the CN and the National Park Service/Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) on traditional uses of resources in the GYE by Comanches.

He also has a new book, Comanche Ethnography, which is due out in August (U Nebraska Press). It is a compilation of the original field notes of the "Santa Fe Field Party" of 1933. That party included E. Adamson Hoebel and Waldo Wedel. These notes were the foundations of the classic Comanche ethnography The Comanches (Wallace and Hoebel 1952) but provide ethnographic detail beyond that which was published in 1952. Comanche Ethnography also reproduces Robert Lowie's notes from his brief visit to Lawton in 1912, the source for his 1916 Shoshone Dances.

Tom is also editing a volume of "histories" written by a Comanche man back in the 1950s-60s based on oral traditions from his grandmother.

Tom teaches at Seton Hall University and administers its anthropological collection.

Kate Spilde Contreras (MA 1993) Appointed to Endowed Chair

Kate Spilde Contreras (MA Anth 1993) has been named to the endowed chairship of the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at San Diego State University, with a concurrent appointment as an associate professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. She goes to San Diego State from UC-Riverside, where she was managing director of The Center for California Native Nations.

Spilde Contreras was born and raised on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. Her mother is a teacher there. Her husband, Michael Contreras, is vice president of construction development and facilities for the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, owner of Valley View Casino in Valley Center, CA.

"We will be dedicating some of the institute's money to research on Indian gaming,” Spilde Contreras told the San Diego Metropolitan in June. “The institute already has funded small research projects over the past two years. One of the current grantees is doing a historical study of gambling among the Kumeyaay."

At GW, Kate Spilde did her thesis research on drug dealers, and did not focus on Indian gaming until her doctoral work at UC-Santa Cruz. Besides a PhD from there, she holds an MBA from San Diego State.

Spilde Contreras was project director of a study of the impacts of Indian gaming in California that was released in 2006 by The Center for California Native Nations. One of the study's findings was that census tracts in close proximity to gaming reservations experienced significantly greater income growth than tracts not in close proximity. These positive income effects were progressive, the study said, with poorer areas receiving larger economic benefits -- in the form of increased family income -- than better-off areas. The study said the establishment of gaming had beneficial effects on poverty, employment, educational expansion and the receipt of public assistance.