Anthropology: WIU students learn about roots of humanity


MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) – Anthropology is all about the study of ‘us,’ or in other words, the roots of humanity.

Western Illinois University has connections to these roots, which Heather McIlvaine-Newsad, an anthropology professor, wants all students to learn about. She said one of her goals is to teach people “how to be a really good human,” whether or not they major in the field.

“An anthropology course is something that everybody should take,” McIlvaine-Newsad said. “Even if you only take one, it really changes the way in which you view the world and engage with other people.

During her 21-year career here, she has taught courses including Native North American Cultures, Culture Regions and Gender, Race and the Environment. WIU actually sits on different Native American lands belonging to the Peoria, Sauk, Meskwaki, Potawatomi, Miami and Sioux tribes. 

McIlvaine-Newsad said it is important to acknowledge this debt, and look at the lessons we can learn from their experiences.

“[You can learn] how to hold on to certain traditions but also adapt to the changing world around you, which native peoples have had to do,” McIlvaine-Newsad said.

Some anthropology classes at WIU have had upwards of 90 students during non-COVID times. McIlvaine-Newsad said that many of her students are in a course pertaining to a culture that they don’t identify with. She said this can help people see that different cultures are more alike than we think.

“That’s one of the lessons of anthropology is that despite the fact that we may think we’re really different from other people, we’re not,” McIlvaine-Newsad said. “Just the way in which we go about it and the resources that we have to solve those problems are often very different.”

When we become more tolerant of other groups, McIlvaine-Newsad said, we can also find new and helpful ways of doing things.

“I think it’s important for us as individuals to understand that there’s no one right way of doing anything,” McIlvaine-Newsad said. “We have got to learn how to be able to listen and see and not judge other people.”

To learn more about cultural courses you can take at WIU, visit the anthropology department’s website.

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