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University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
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September 6, 2001 Contact: Paul Francuch (312) 996-3457; francuch@uic.edu


John Monaghan, a cultural anthropologist and specialist on the speakers of the Maya and Mixtec languages of Central America, has been named head of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Monaghan comes to UIC via Nashville and Kalamazoo, where he held joint positions at Vanderbilt University and Western Michigan University.

"UIC has a great reputation in academia as an up-and-coming place that's on the move," said Monaghan.

Stanley Fish, dean of the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, calls Monaghan's appointment "wonderful."

"Professor Monaghan brings a combination of excellent scholarship and administrative savvy to his new position," said Fish. "I look forward to an exciting new period in the history of the anthropology department."

Monaghan is unlikely to disappoint Fish. He already has a plan.

"Anthropology has become a bit like a conglomerate," said Monaghan. "There are a lot of subfields, which can have a lot to do with one another, but which can also have nothing to do with one another." Anthropology departments across the country are splitting apart because of these divisions, he said.

"I have been able to see how a lot of departments work," said Monaghan. "This idea that many are like conglomerates got me thinking about how corporations are successful at dealing with this sort of thing."

Monaghan read how General Electric's chief executive Jack Welch reorganized an aging conglomerate into a focused corporation that aimed at being either first or second in all its product lines. Less productive sectors were sold off. Dynamic, complementary businesses were bought and folded in.

"That is sort of what we have to do in anthropology," Monaghan said. He has fixed his sights on making four departmental specialties the tops in their field.

"UIC has one of the best archaeology programs in the world, largely because of our connection with the Field Museum of Natural History," said Monaghan. "Their personnel teach at UIC, and we do research at the museum. It is simply a matter of building on the strengths that already exist."

His second goal is to focus on the developing field of medical anthropology, working with staff at the UIC School of Public Health and adding faculty positions in anthropology.

His third area of focus is geography. "We intend to build on the strength that anthropology has in environmental studies and political ecology, as well as what geography brings to the table. There are a number of interesting developments going on in geography with regard to environmental studies."

Finally, Monaghan hopes to promote greater work between the anthropology and history departments. He sees ethnohistory as a specialty where UIC can excel.

Besides Vanderbilt and Western Michigan, Monaghan has held visiting teaching positions at Brigham Young University, the University of Oklahoma, Widener University in Chester, Pa. and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

Monaghan earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Santa Clara and his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. He studied at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain. His fieldwork has focused on Maya speakers in highland Guatemala and Mixtec speakers of southern Mexico.

- UIC -


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