Professor Review

With the 2018/2019 school year, Dr. Mary Malainey, Chair of Anthropology, has gone on sabbatical, leaving two full time Anthropology professors to teach all of the Anthro courses. But what the department lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. 

Dr. Emma Varley is a socio-cultural anthropologist specializing in medical anthropology. Aside from teaching socio-cultural classes, Dr. Varley does continuous ethnographic fieldwork in northern Pakistan. Her specialization is an extensive analysis of cultural, ethical, and experiential disposition of medicine. Specifically, her research examines how maternal health and development is affected by uneven governance, bureaucratization, and corruption. 

A class that stands out is Dr. Varley’s Medical Anthropology course. Aside from the passion exuded from lectures as a result of teaching material that is her own specialization, the course allows students to explore their own interests and experiences. Discussions not only draw on ethnographic accounts of medicine, but on the perspective of students and how they have experienced medical systems. The class examines everything from processes we don’t think twice about, such as seeing a family doctor, to global controversies such as abortion rights. 

Taking one of Dr. Varley’s courses, dare I say guarantees the opportunity for students to thoroughly explore their own interests. Forging your own learning path in these classes leads to some of the most engrossing and exciting research and writing, naturally resulting in excellent papers. This also results in compelling out of class discussions with classmates to understand their perspective in assignments. The definition of a great class is when students replace “have you started this yet?” with “what’s your topic?”. 

In all respects, Dr. Varley is always willing to modify her teaching or assignments to ensure every one of her students get the most out of her classes. She goes out of her way to help students succeed and is famously understanding and accommodating if students struggle. 

Dr. Emily Holland is a biological anthropology professor as well as a practicing forensic anthropologist. In addition to teaching biological anthropology courses, she is a consultant to law enforcement all over Manitoba; assisting in searches for remains with the RCMP, and providing expertise in the analysis of bone with the medical examiner’s office.  

Dr. Holland teaches classes such as Human Osteology, Paleopathology, and Introduction to Forensic Anthropology. As a student, a class of hers that stands out as exceptional is Anthropology of Death. The class examines the phenomenon of death from every perspective, including archaeological, forensic, and ethnographic research on the material and culture associated with dying, death, and mortuary rites. The class includes an assignment in which students are assigned a section of the Brandon Cemetery from which they collect information from headstones and analyze the data to report on demographic trends within the section. 

Dr. Holland’s lectures are uniquely informative because she is active in both fields the classes encompass (bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology). Real life examples and experiences emphasize the importance of all the material. Class sizes in the biological anthropology subfield are often small – many consist of less than 10 students. In many student’s opinions, this qualifies as the ultimate learning experience, open for endless questions and availability for one on one instruction. 

Dr. Holland’s courses are always hands-on, taking a class with her guarantees an opportunity to put lecture material into practice. In addition to mental and tactile engagement in lectures, Dr. Holland often provides enthusiastic and qualified students with extracurricular opportunities to assist with community workshops or casework.