Bridging The Gap: Professor Sallie Han

Tracey Cheek, Contributing Writer

   Here at SUNY Oneonta, there is a wide range of fields of study. One field that is particularly intriguing to students is anthropology. Anthropology has several different fields within itself:linguistic, cultural and medical.Professor Sallie Han is one of Oneonta’s anthropology professors who captures
and inspires many of her students to pursue anthropology and use it with many other professions along the way.

   Professor Han found herself in the anthropology field in a very unique manner. Throughout high school and following into college, Han always wanted to be a writer. She was an English major at Williams College and pursued a career in journalism. As a journalist, Han was a staff writer in the features department of the New York Daily News for five years. For one article in particular, Han was interested in finding the meaning behind why so many words of affection related to metaphors of sweetness: honey, sweetie, sugar, etc. She then interviewed an anthropology professor from Hartwick College, Professor Sidney Mintz, who focuses on sugar studies and the impact of sugar on society.

   This interview truly inspired Han and bridged the gap between anthropology and journalism. The connection of coming up with ideas, talking to people and then writing about it is what Han genuinely loves about both anthropology and journalism. Professor Han focuses on anthropology reproduction,
and additionally teaches linguistic, cultural and medical anthropology. A wide range of students take her courses, from biology majors to communication majors, and everywhere in between. Many of her students find themselves pursuing anthropology majors in grad school and landing jobs in occupational therapy, nursing and social work. Han gave an example of college students catching the flu. The students can catch the virus, but their lifestyle also plays a crucial role in their health.

   Social interaction and deciding to do the right thing, even when we are aware it is wrong, all ties into medical anthropology. Professor Han mainly focuses on anthropology reproduction. “The
entire cultural and social experience of becoming a mother is not just a biological process,” Han explained how being a mother places you as a certain role in society. Professor Han began these studies and found herself becoming a “participant observer,” and was drawn closer to the study by having children of her own. She has a book coming out in July that focuses on anthropology reproduction.

   Anthropology can relate to any other study. “There are few opportunities out there to become broadly educated, and anthropology encourages broad education,” Han states. Being the study of human societies and cultures, anthropology is a field that has something interesting in it for everybody.

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