For Immediate Release—Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

SUNY Geneseo Anthropology Professor Ellen Kintz Receives Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program Grant

Monthlong study in Brazil comes after 27th trip to Mexico

GENESEO, N.Y.—Ellen Kintz, professor and chair of anthropology at the State University of New York at Geneseo, has been awarded a 2007 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program grant to travel and study in Brazil this summer.

Kintz received confirmation in late February from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and the Secretary of Education of her selection as a participant in the U.S. Department of Education.

The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program is designed to help U.S. educators and administrators in humanities, languages or area studies enhance their international understanding and knowledge of the people and culture of another country.

Kintz will spend the month of July in Brazil touring various regions—including the Amazon, Pantanel and Bahia—and attending a seminar titled "Learning the Land: How Sustainable Development Can Build a Strong Educational Foundation."

"It will allow me to do a quantum leap forward in terms of my experience as a teacher-scholar, and I'll be able to share that with my students," said Kintz, who teaches about Latin America, anthropological research methods, ethics and social sciences. Her teachings primarily have focused on Mexico, Maya and the Andes, but this trip will allow her to incorporate Brazil into her courses.

"As an anthropologist, I know about Brazil, but I'd like to know more," she said, adding this will be her second trip to the country and will allow her to explore environmental zones and look at new patterns of sustainable development in the country. She visited Brazil a couple of years ago as part of an Earthwatch Institute trip.

"That's the thing anthropologists do," said Kintz. "I want to look and see what the sustainable projects are doing. I want to see how people react to it."

Kintz, of Geneseo, joined the Geneseo faculty in 1979 as an assistant professor. In 1989, she was promoted to associate professor, and in 1996 she was promoted to professor. She earned her bachelor's degree in anthropology from The American University in Washington, D.C., and her master's degree and doctorate in anthropology from SUNY at Stony Brook.

College officials are delighted Kintz has been recognized for her work.

"I was extremely pleased to hear that Dr. Ellen Kintz had been awarded a competitive Fulbright-Hays Award. She is an outstanding member of our Geneseo faculty and her focus on Latin American and Mesoamerican cultures adds tremendously to our students' understanding of anthropology, peoples and cultures," said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Katherine Conway-Turner. "I am positive that her work in Brazil through the Fulbright-Hays will add another extraordinary dimension to her understanding of cultures. I congratulate Dr. Kintz on yet another acknowledgment of her superb work and her continued growth as a teacher-scholar."

Kintz has loved exploring since she was a child when her parents would take her and her older sister on trips to Europe, Mexico and Canada and across America. Her father was an adventurous traveler while her mother ensured the family followed cautious paths, she recalled about the family trips that would help shape the course of her life.

"He read about all these places he wanted to go," said Kintz. "He thought that was a way to expand your horizons so you didn't have to live in such a narrow band."

From Mexico to Brazil

In keeping with family tradition to travel, Kintz has completed 26 field trips since 1975 to the rural village of Coba, located in the state of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula of the southeastern coastal region of Mexico to research pre-Columbian Maya and contemporary Maya living in the Yucatan. Her primary fieldwork has targeted the Maya living in Cobá. During these trips, Kintz has worked with students, archaeologists, local Maya men and women, herbalists, traditional curers, elders and children.

Her first trip to Coba was as a National Geographic archeologist to research the area's magnificent Maya ruins. At that time, she met village resident Nicholas Caamal Canche, with whom she has been working with him ever since. Throughout the decades, Kintz's research has evolved from archeology to anthropology to sustainable gardening. Her areas of scholarly interest have included sexism, racism and poverty. Today, she helps the Coba women develop and maintain kitchen gardens to grow vegetables and medicinal herbs.

In the 1990s, Kintz began working with the villagers to create a small-scale sustainable agricultural plan for the families to improve the food supply and children nutrition. Her extensive work there helped her obtain a $19,000 grant in 2002 from the Rochester-based Dorothy Haus Ross Foundation for work on kitchen gardens in Mexico. Kintz and her students have helped plant 1,500 fruit trees in the village—mostly citrus, but she will begin planting indigenous trees this May.

This week, during Geneseo's spring break, Kintz is on her 27th trip to Coba. The March trip is one of three annual visits she makes to the village, located about two hours from the resort Cancun. Kintz takes eight students each March for a weeklong trip and six to eight students in January and June for a two-week visit. The weather in January and June allows the Geneseo group to do biodiversity projects in the village. During the March trip, Kintz takes students to nine archaeological sites, including a monkey preserve, colonial period haciendas and churches as part of the course "Art: Architecture and Archaeology." The Geneseo group always works in Coba, helping families.

Kintz's photographs of her visits to Coba have been featured in the college's art galleries, showing what it is like for the families and children, who face numerous hardships but work together to ensure the children are fed and clothed.

"They're at the very bottom of the economic ladder," she said. One "external force"—such as a hurricane hitting the village, a child becoming ill or the death of a husband—can force villagers to stay in poverty, she explained. To ensure safe housing, it would cost a family $800 to cover their home with stucco, an expense that seems minimal to most Americans but is exorbitant to Coba villagers.

Despite being economically poor, the villagers are socially rich, she said. According to Kintz, the reverse can be found in America: people are economically rich but socially poor, lacking the networks found in tight-knit communities such as Coba. Each time she visits, Kintz brings clothing for the villagers, in particular children from newborn to age 10. She collects clothing from Geneseo students, faculty and staff and is constantly seeking donations.

"We have to think about how wealthy we are in terms of the world, and we have to be more proactive," said Kintz. "My experience as an anthropologist has changed my way of thinking forever."

Kintz has been invited to present her research and findings on Mexico during EcoSummit 2007, which will be held May 22-27 in Beijing. This year, the summit will focus on integrative aspects of all ecological science and its application under the general theme of "Ecological Complexity and Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities for 21st-Century's Ecology."

Kintz has applied for a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities to sponsor a four-week seminar in the Yucatan in summer 2008.