Anthropology students earn recognition in op-ed contest

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KALAMAZOO—Four anthropology students at Western Michigan University have won Public Anthropology Awards for opinion-editorial pieces they submitted in a competition sponsored by the Center for a Public Anthropology.

The contest included submissions from more than 3,500 students at 25 North American universities. Only students whose op-eds were ranked in the top five percent in North America earned certificates of recognition from the center.

Award winners

Sarah Harrington, of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Craig Johnson, of East Lansing, Mich.

Brandy Morgan, of Battle Creek, Mich.

Katie Psotka, of Warren, Mich.

All four were students in the Principles of Cultural Anthropology class taught by Dr. Kristina Wirtz, WMU associate professor of anthropology. They each wrote their op-eds on how institutional review boards should enforce a set of common rules regarding research.

The competition was part of a two-and-a-half-week online community action project of the Center for a Public Anthropology, a nonprofit organization that encourages scholars and their students to address public problems in public ways.

Students in classes participating in the project wrote professional-style op-ed pieces that were anonymously evaluated by their peers at other schools. The pieces with the highest grades were declared model op-eds.

The project gives students the experience of writing for audiences beyond their classrooms and schools in a way that attracts attention and serious consideration. In addition, it helps the students understand how democracy works through discussions in the public sphere, and how to effectively participate in the process.

Wirtz, a WMU faculty member since 2005, is a linguistic and cultural anthropologist who studies Santería in contemporary Cuba. Her research and teaching interests include religion, discourse, ritual performance, and negotiations over identity and community.

For more information about the community action project, visit the Center for a Public Anthropology website at publicanthropology.org. The site contains a direct link to the four op-eds written by WMU's students.