SHESC Annual Report for AY23

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School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Mission and vision At Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, we investigate what makes us human and use new knowledge to foster a healthier, more sustainable world. Using tools from anthropology, global health, environmental social science and museum studies, our work integrates the natural and social sciences to answer questions about the human story and inspire our students to become informed, socially responsible members of their communities. Our school aims to be a leader in innovative research and teaching that impacts our generation and beyond. Our faculty and student interactions from learning and research will be measured not just in labs, classrooms and field sites, but in hospital rooms and living rooms, in rural villages and bustling cities, as students become citizens who are equipped with the knowledge and means to change the world.


Annual Report 22-23

Administrative leadership transition Following four years of leadership, Christopher Stojanowksi stepped down from the role of director and returned to our school faculty. During his tenure, the School of Human Evolution and Social Change benefited from his remarkable leadership that helped the school to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also included triumphs such as launching new degree programs, as well as continuing to increase enrollments across our programs. His dedication, passion, and commitment have transformed our school into a place of excellence, growth and boundless possibilities.

After an extensive search, the School of Human Evolution and Social Change is excited to welcome Ryan Williams as professor and director.

Christopher Stojanowski

Previously, Williams worked with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where he served as the head of social sciences. In the two-plus decades he spent at the museum, Williams served in several teaching and administration roles, including curator, chair of anthropology and associate director of research. Coming to ASU, Williams looks forward to engaging with all of the school’s communities, including faculty, staff and students, and continuing its impactful programs and community outreach.

This school is the powerful innovator that it is because of the diversity of research approaches it engages and because it leverages those different disciplines in complementary ways to address humanity’s biggest questions.”

Ryan Williams 3

School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Facts and figures Student data

7,745 Degrees awarded in 2022-2023

enrolled in our classes on-campus and online Number of majors 679 Undergraduate students online

332 Undergraduate students on-campus



Bachelor’s degrees

Graduate students on-campus



Graduate degrees

Graduate students online

Where our students are from

9 46 4


States and US territories

1,128 Total majors

Annual Report 22-23

Facts and figures A warm welcome to our new faculty for Academic Year 2024

Ryan Williams Professor and Director

Davina Two Bears Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Scholar

Donna Nash Associate Professor

Retirements: Michelle Hegmon Since coming to Arizona State University in 1995, Michelle Hegmon focused much of her research on using archaeological data to understand what people’s lives were like in the past and how social and cultural factors affected their lives – especially in terms of inequality. After almost 30 years of service to research and students, she retired from ASU in 2022, was granted emeritus status, moved to Albuquerque and looks forward to spending more time volunteering for local environmental and political organizations. Thank you for your dedication to our school and students!

Faculty data

Some of our research funding comes from these prestigious institutions:

Maricopa County Department of Public Health Rapid Response Facility

European Commission

Templeton World Charity Foundation

United States Department of Agriculture - Forest Service

Leakey Foundation

National Science Foundation Salt River Project

National Institutes of Health

John Templeton Foundation University of Oxford

Department of Defense - Army Corps of Engineers


SHESC Stories

School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Discovery of 90 million year old turtle fossil Turtles have been on Earth for about 260 million years, making them older than dinosaurs. They can live almost anywhere and scientists can learn a lot about the environments they thrived in and the water quality of those environments, according to Brenton Adrian, an evolutionary anthropology PhD student who helped identify a very old turtle fossil that was in storage at the Arizona Museum of Natural History. The new fossil species of Cretaceous baenid (extinct turtle) was discovered in the Moreno Hill Formation in the Zuni Basin of western New Mexico. The fossil was discovered in the late 1990s during an expedition led by Doug Wolfe, with the Arizona Museum of Natural History, James Kirkland and volunteers with the Southwest Paleontological Society. The fossil is about 90 million years old and the turtle lived in an interval of time during the Cretaceous period called the Turonian. The new species is called Edowa zuniensis. The genus name “Edowa’’ is the word for “turtle” in the language of the Zuni Indigenous peoples of western New Mexico and eastern Arizona, and the species name “zuniensis” refers to the Zuni Basin, where the species lived. Read more


Chimpanzee community researched by faculty, students the focus of Netflix documentary

The Netflix series “Chimp Empire” was filmed about the Ngogo chimpanzees over a one-and-a-halfyear period and was directed by James Reed and narrated by Mahershala Ali. For more than 20 years, primatologist and Associate Professor Kevin Langergraber has studied the Ngogo community of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda. “I think the filmmakers have done an amazing job turning our scientific stories into compelling emotional drama that brings people in,” Langergraber said. Read more

Annual Report 22-23

New research indicates the ‘whites’ of eyes not uniquely human

Our eyes allow us to communicate with other people without needing to talk. This is in part because of the color variation between our iris and sclera (the white part of the eye), explains Kevin Lee, an evolutionary anthropology PhD student. Lee, along with a team of researchers, published data showing that enough chimpanzees have white sclera to make the characteristic more than just an anomaly among them. “White sclera is often considered a uniquely human trait in scholarly literature and popular media. Our study confirms that this is not the case. Almost one in six chimpanzees at Ngogo had full or partial white sclera in at least one eye, which tended to be more visible when gaze was averted rather than direct,” the researchers stated in their paper. The team analyzed over 1,000 photos of 230 individual Ngogo chimpanzees who live in the center of Kibale National Park, Uganda. Many of the images were taken by Lee, who was able to use zoom lenses and equipment to capture the chimpanzees’ faces and eyes. Other images used were from archives at the park. Read more

“We were able to show at Ngogo that up to 15% of our individuals, across all ages, have fully white sclera or what we would consider to be a majority of white sclera. With another 40% to 50% having some sort of depigmentation that is noticeable.” —Kevin Lee

ASU’s first cryptocurrency gift supports clean air work As cryptocurrency continues to gain popularity for individuals looking to diversify their investment portfolios, it is also gaining traction as a new way for people to give back. The School of Human Evolution and Social Change recently accepted the university’s first cryptocurrency gift exchanged for U.S. dollars. The first cryptocurrency donation to the university is a $300,000 gift from Balvi, a direct giving fund established by Vitalik Buterin, the co-creator of Ethereum. This donation supports the Clean Indoor Air Project, a public health initiative focused on increasing awareness about the importance of indoor air quality, improving access to portable indoor air cleaners and evaluating the performance of DIY air cleaners in under-ventilated K–12 classroom environments.

ASU’s Clean Indoor Air Project, led by Professor Megan Jehn, has worked extensively to slow the transmission of COVID-19, including building and testing 275 CorsiRosenthal (CR) air filtration boxes that are being used in 21 cities throughout Arizona. Read more 7

School of Human Evolution and Social Change

“Our gelada research does not take place in a vacuum. Our research takes place in these really unique, endangered Afromontane and Afro-Alpine ecosystems in the Simien Mountains National Park in Ethiopia. This work is only able to take place with the support of the incredible communities who live around the park.” —India Schneider-Crease

Geladas sift through trash, including plastic water bottles, in the Simien Mountains National Park.


Annual Report 22-23

ASU team helps

in Ethiopia India Schneider-Crease, assistant professor, is currently leading a two-part project that brings together anthropologists, students, engineers and wildlife conservationists at ASU and from around the world to clean up plastic trash left in this UNESCO World Heritage Site and turn it into income for communities in Ethiopia. The Simien Mountains National Park in Ethiopia has unique high-altitude ecosystems and is home to some of the rarest species in the world, including the Walia ibex, the Ethiopian wolf and gelada monkeys. As co-director of the Simien Mountains Gelada Research Project, Schneider-Crease’s research focuses on understanding the ecology of infectious diseases in geladas. This two-part project will include a massive cleanup where more than 100 people from local communities will be assigned a section of the park. Participants will collect data on how much and what type of trash is found as they clean. Then the project will focus on the plastic bottles left in the park. For the past year and a half, ASU engineering students have worked on building two machines that will shred the plastic bottles and then melt them down to make souvenirs that can be sold back to tourists. This helps remove waste and provides a source of income for the communities surrounding the park. Read more 9

School of Human Evolution and Social Change

“The human remains themselves are vital for explorations of the impact of climate and environmental change on individuals and groups in the past. The archaeological record provides a window into both short- and long-term changes in human groups as a result of different forms of climate change.” —Jane Buikstra

Human remains giving insight to climate change, resilience Learning how people across the world coped

Using case studies, the scientists examined human

with rapid climate change throughout history can

remains and relationships between people during

help current populations prepare, said a group of

times of rapid climate change. The article discusses

scientists in a recently published article.

how climate change had an impact on health, food

Their paper on the subject, “Climate change, human health, and resilience in the Holocene,” was published in the Proceedings of the National

stability, disease, migration and dispelled myths of violence during hard times. Authors on the article included Brenda Baker,

Academy of Sciences of the United States of

professor; Jane Buikstra, Regents Professor; Kelly

America (PNAS). The article outlines what worked

Knudson, professor; and Christopher Stojanowski,

— and what didn’t work — historically for humans

professor. The paper was led by Gwen Robbins

during climate change.

Schug, professor with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Read more


Annual Report 22-23

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave me this award for the international value of my academic achievements, mainly at Teotihuacan, and cultural, educational activities between Mexico, Japan, the United States and other countries” —Saburo Sugiyama

Saburo Sugiyama receives prestigious Japanese honor The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan honored Saburo Sugiyama for his academic work at Teotihuacan — an immense city that flourished in the highlands of central Mexico, near modern Mexico City, from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 650. Sugiyama, a research professor, received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette. Sugiyama has spent his career researching Mesoamerican social histories, particularly those of Teotihuacan. He recently published a paper about a spider monkey skeleton found in a ceremonial grave at Teotihuacan that shed new light on the politics between Teotihuacan and Maya civilizations. Read more

Shining light on the erasure of Black history in Arizona Three students selected for prestigious Fulbright awards Three students with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change were honored with Fulbright awards this year. The students will spend a year in Africa, the Philippines and a small island off the coast of China, where they will learn about other cultures, conduct research and teach English. Patrick Fahey, graduate student, will be traveling to South Africa to research faunal remains from Pinnacle Point 5-6N, a Middle Stone Age rockshelter site. David Gowey, graduate student, will be working in the central Philippines, where he will research Panay Bukidnon epic chanting, known as “sugidanon.” Quinn Hardt, who recently graduated with his undergraduate degree, will be helping to teach English on a small island off the coast of Fujian, China. Read more

There is a deep history of Black people and African Americans in the Southwest that has been erased and forgotten, explains Meskerem Glegziabher, clinical assistant professor. Glegziabher recently published an essay, “Where Are All the Black Folks? Popular Narratives and the Erasure of Black History in Arizona,” in the Journal of Arizona History.

“Black people, African American and immigrant alike, are labeled as outsiders and largely excluded from narratives about the past, present and future of Arizona,” —Meskerem Glegziabher But in reality, Black soldiers, farmers, loggers and merchants helped to grow Arizona as a territory long before statehood. Read more


School of Human Evolution and Social Change

“It is an act of love. By love, we give meaning to grief and stand to honor and recognize his achievements and celebrate his life. I know what the doctoral degree meant for him, and he knew what it means for me. By accepting it on his behalf, we both are spiritually connected by love.” — Fernando Ramírez Cortes

Family accepts son’s posthumous degree Surrounded in a sea of maroon caps and gowns sat Fernando Ramírez Cortes, who was joined by his wife, family and friends who all flew in from around the world. The joyous atmosphere of graduation echoed through the football stadium for the annual convocation ceremony for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. And while this was a moment of celebration, it was also marked by loss and sadness for the Ramírez Cortes family as they waited to accept a degree for their son, Sebastían Ramírez Amaya, who died in April 2022 while

Hinde and Wutich named lifetime fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general 12

doing fieldwork studying the Ngogo chimpanzees in the Kibale National park in Uganda. During the convocation ceremony, Ramírez Amaya’s PhD in anthropology was posthumously awarded by Patrick Kenney, dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, alongside Christopher Stojanowski, professor and director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Read more

scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals, has elected anthropologists Katie Hinde and Amber Wutich to the newest class of AAAS Fellows, among the most distinguished honors within the scientific community. Hinde is an associate professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, a core faculty member at the Center for Evolution and Medicine, an associate professor with the Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative, School of Life Sciences

interdisciplinary graduate faculty and a senior global futures scientist with the Global Futures Scientists and Scholars Network. Wutich is a President’s Professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and director of the Center for Global Health at ASU. She is also associate director of the Institute for Social Science Research and a senior global futures scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. Read more

Annual Report 22-23

“These experiences really helped me develop a sense of cultural humility and with ASU’s global health program, I knew it would give me a strong foundation to continue studying the intersection of culture and community health. Global health was a great choice because it supplemented my traditional pre-medical coursework to provide a more holistic understanding of the health-care landscape.” — Kyle Polen

Money changes what we consider a need

Global health student accepted to 13 medical schools Kyle Polen came to Arizona State University as a Flinn Scholar and just four years later, he graduated with dual degrees, including a Bachelor of Arts in global health, and 13 acceptance letters to medical schools across the country. Polen said his passion for science and medicine started in high school and grew while attending ASU. Polen wants to pursue a career as a physician with a global presence focusing on the science and humanistic aspects of medicine. Read more

In 1974, Polly Wiessner – a professor of anthropology – meticulously documented gifts, sharing and relationships within the Ju/’hoansi Bushmen of northeast Namibia and northwest Botswana. Over the next 44 years, Wiessner tracked how the introduction of money changed a historically hunter-gatherer society with the results laid out in the article “A 44-year perspective on the influence of cash on the Ju/’hoansi Bushman networks of sharing and gifting” that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America (PNAS), with support from co-author Cindy Hsin-yee Huang, an anthropology PhD student. The article lays out the discovery that the introduction of money into the Ju/’hoansi society produced two pivotal changes: money makes sharing expensive and money redefines our definition of “need.” Read more

Want to learn more? 13

School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Thank you to our donors for the support during the 2022-2023 Joan Silk and Rob Boyd

Judi Cameron

Christopher and Jennifer Campisano

Margaret Cloos

Scott Schreiber and Anna Consie

Brendan and Kailee Cunningham

Katherine Spielmann and William Edwards

Rapid Response Facility

Jay Franklin

Richard Gillespie

Claudine GravelMiguel

Frank and Caroline Grinere

Rebecca Hill

Anne Stone and Eric Hiser

Christopher and Catherine Huston

Henry Kreis

Janet Loughlin

Jennifer Brown and Fredrick MacKenzie

Christina Martinez

Arthur and Mollie Meza

Ellen Moore

Matthew Peeples

Misa Pham

Nicole and Brian Pomerantz

Joseph and Joyce Sallak

Hoski Schaafsma and Teresa Rodrigues

Clements Schram

Geoffrey Clark and Barbara Stark

Elizabeth and Christopher Stojanowski

Maureen and Doug Towne


Annual Report 22-23

eir generous 3 academic year. Alice Casey

Gina Chamberlin

Matthew Cordell and Alberto Cedillo Diaz

James and Florenia Eder

Jameson Wetmore and Emma Frow

Balvi Filantropic Fund

Carita Harrell

Keri Hensley

Desert Archaeology, Inc.

Erick Juergens

Jennifer and John Marsteen

Megan Martin

A heartfelt

‘thank you’ for


of support to these endowments created in support of scholarships and research in our school: The Roger O. and Janet K. Williams Archaeology Research Fund Dr. George L. Cowgill Teotihuacan Research Laboratory Award Dr. Oralia Cabrera Cortés Research Account René Millon Memorial Scholarship Fund James E. Stowe Undergraduate Field Experience Scholarship

Holly Norton

Joel Palka

Endangered Language Documentation Programme

Dorie Reents-Budet

Amr Shabaan

Michael Smith and Cynthia Heath-Smith

Donald H. Morris Award for Physical Anthropology Hardie Gift Research and Education in Anthropology Ruppe Prize Philip Mason Thompson Memorial Scholarship Fund

Cherie and George Walton

Mary Whelan 15

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