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Anthropologist Barbara Welker Authors Open SUNY Textbook

Barbara Welker, associate professor of anthropology at SUNY Geneseo, is among recent authors for the Open SUNY Textbooks initiative.

Welker’s textbook, “The History of Our Tribe: Hominini,” examines where humans came from, the nature of our ancestors, how we differ from other animals and how scientists trace and construct evolutionary history.

“We are so excited to release an open textbook by a Geneseo author, and even more so because it showcases illustrations by a Geneseo student,” said Allison Brown, digital publishing services manager at Geneseo. “Anthropology is a subject area that isn’t yet well-represented in available open educational resources, so Dr. Welker’s work will make a big impact. Because of our agile publishing model, the book has been kept up to date even through recent discoveries made during production, and can be updated easily in the future.”

The illustrator for the book was Keenan Taylor, a 2015 Geneseo graduate who majored in anthropology.

The textbook and another recent publication by a Genesee Community College theatre faculty member brings to 20 the number of textbooks published by SUNY faculty through Open SUNY Textbooks, a component of a rapidly growing Open Educational Resources (OER) project within SUNY and at other colleges and universities across the country. Geneseo launched SUNY’s open textbook initiative five years ago to engage SUNY faculty in developing free online textbooks with the goal of helping reduce the cost of attending colleges and universities.

“When I received the solicitation from SUNY Open Access, prior to my scheduled sabbatical, I figured it was a great opportunity to create a textbook for my Human Evolution course, as well as an additional resource for my Intro to Physical Anthropology course,” said Welker. “I am frustrated with the high cost of textbooks, but even more so by the rate at which publishers put out new editions so that bookstores cannot buy the previous editions back from students.”

Welker received her doctorate from the University at Buffalo and is a biological anthropologist, anatomist, primatologist and behavioral ecologist. She says her book is a logically organized and encyclopedic approach to human evolution that gives students foundational information along with a stand-alone section on each hominin species. She already has word that a Webster University professor is going to use it. Welker’s book can be downloaded as a PDF, ebook or read online.

Another publication for Open SUNY Textbooks by a Geneseo faculty member is forthcoming: “The Sound of Physics” by James McLean, associate professor of physics and astronomy.

Milne Library Publishing also has published open access textbooks and scholarship by other Geneseo authors, including Judy Albers, the VanArsdale Chair of Entrepreneurship in the School of Business; Christopher Leary, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics; Jasmine Tang, a lecturer in the Department of Languages and Literatures; and Tom MacPherson, professor of art history. Geneseo emeritus faculty members also have published through Milne including Eugene Stelzig, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of English, and Wayne Mahood, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of education.

SUNY was recently notified that it is among 11 schools or systems in the nation selected to participate in the 2017-18 OpenStax Institutional Partnership Program to encourage use of free, peer-reviewed textbooks on campus. The SUNY application was submitted by SUNY OER Services at Geneseo on behalf of the system.

Photo: Anthropologist Barbara Welker converses with then-Geneseo student Keenan Taylor, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in anthropology and illustrated Welker’s new textbook.

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