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New Mexico State University

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Chaiken joins NMSU faculty as anthropology, sociology department head

There's absolutely no substitution for fieldwork when you're studying anthropology and sociology according to Miriam Chaiken, the new department head for the programs at New Mexico State University's College of Arts and Sciences.

New Mexico State University academic department head for sociology and anthropology, Miriam Chaiken, at left, trains local communities on nutritional monitoring in Mozambique, Africa as part of her work with UNICEF. (Courtesy Photo)

In addition to encouraging students within the department to pursue every opportunity for fieldwork no matter their area of focus, Chaiken has done her own work, studies and research in Southeast Asia and will continue to pursue her most recent research and service in East Africa.

Chaiken is a cultural anthropologist who received her Ph.D. from University of California. She became a new faculty member in spring 2009 and brings previous department head experience from when she taught at Indiana University of Pennsylvania before joining NMSU. Her research focuses on issues of economic development in Africa and Southeast Asia, especially on strategies to provide culturally sensitive health care and emergency aid.

She has worked with various international and United Nations organizations including UNICEF to help design programs for health care and education in the Third World, and has developed training materials for non-governmental organizations (NGO) staff. Her interests include the changing status of women in developing countries, participatory development, resettlement, and rural health, nutrition and food security.

UNICEF is a nonprofit group with a mission to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child's path. Chaiken describes her work with UNICEF as "culturally sensitive." She studies how to engage communities in developmental planning to bridge the NGO activities and local communities as well as facilitates the development of training materials for staff.

Her recent publications have appeared in "Food and Nutrition Bulletin," "Nutrition News for Africa," and in-house publications of food security advocacy organizations such as World Vision and Save the Children. In fall 2008 she was invited to be one of the keynote speakers in a year-long series on the Anthropology of Food sponsored by the School for Advanced Research, and has recently been an appointee to the American Anthropological Associations' Task Force on the Global Food Crisis.

"I'm pleased to return to my southwestern roots after 20 years of exile in the cold northwest, and I'm looking forward to trying every chile New Mexico has to offer," Chaiken said.