Anthropologists promote understanding of human origins

May 9, 2011

A 2009 Gallup Poll found that only 39 percent of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” and not surprisingly, the poll found a strong relationship between education and belief in Charles Darwin’s theory.

On May 5, famed paleoanthroplogists ASU professor Donald Johanson and Richard Leakey came together at the American Museum of Natural History in New York to discuss human evolution, its overwhelming evidence in the extant hominid fossil record, and why understanding our evolutionary history is of such critical relevance today. Download Full Image

Both scientists have emerged as vocal defenders of evolution, and this evening will offer them an opportunity to discuss human evolutionary theory and the fossil record within the context of their own scientific work. CNN science correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joined the two scientists as moderator on the stage of the LeFrak IMAX Theater. 

Johanson and Leakey have each spent decades hunting for hominid fossils in east Africa, working to unearth the physical record of human evolution and piece together the complex biological narrative that explains – in very real terms – who we are as a species. Their work has led to some of the most important paleoanthropological discoveries of the last half-century, including Johanson's discovery of the "Lucy" specimen in Ethiopia's Awash Valley in 1974 and Leakey's discovery of the 1.6 million-year-old Homo erectus youth skeleton known as "Turkana Boy" in 1984.

Johanson and Leakey discussed their experiences as scientists in the field, sharing the stories behind their monumental finds and reflecting upon their work both as eminent leaders in their field and skilled translators of science for a public audience. Having discovered much of the fossil evidence which forms our knowledge of human origins, they also offered a look forward at what we can expect from another decade of human evolutionary research, particularly as fossil finds and genetic data merge to produce a much clearer picture of where we came from and where we are going as a species.

On May 4, Johanson and Louise Leakey, daughter of Richard and Meave Leakey and a paleontologist with experience in Kenya and east Africa, led two special educational sessions at the museum with a group of 125 high school students and over 250 teachers from the New York City area to promote the importance of science education and teaching human evolution.

This historic event was made possible through a joint partnership of Arizona State University Institute of Human Origins, the Turkana Basin Institute headquartered at Stony Brook University, and the American Museum of Natural History.

This event is also part of the Institute of Human Origins’ anniversary celebration during 2011–2012 with the theme of “Becoming Human: 30 Years of Research and Discovery.”

A full year of anniversary events is planned to bring renowned scientists and experts in human origins to the ASU campus, including a lecture series; a fall 2011 exhibition in the ASU Museum of Anthropology; an essay competition – “Letters to Lucy” – for elementary, middle, and high school students; and a final symposium and gala in April 2012.

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Julie Russ

Assistant director, Institute of Human Origins


Making an elevator pitch takes student to the top

May 9, 2011

Susan Eckman, a finance and accountancy junior in the ASU W. P. Carey School of Business, reached the top by winning the $5,000 grand prize in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Personal Branding Week Elevator Pitch Video Contest.  Selected from nearly 200 submissions, her entry to sell her professional image secured the close. 

Votes took her to the top 10, and, based on creativity, technical merit and content originality, a panel of PwC representatives and an external personal brand expert selected her as the winner. More details are available in a State Press article at" target="_blank"> Download Full Image

Eckman"><... is a winner in other areas as well.  She was recently named as one of 10 McCord Scholars for 2011-12, and as a Larry Seay and Barb Walchli Scholarship recipient.  This academic year she defended her honors thesis, "Fleischer Scholars Program: Providing Access to Higher Education" in which she designed and coordinated the inaugural business summer program for economically disadvantaged high school juniors. She took the program a level higher by establishing a partnership with PwC in which the company supports the program by hosting a business site visit.  Through panel events and targeted activities, participants become exposed to professionalism in the workplace, career opportunities with a large firm, what recruiters and interviewers seek, and the like.

This summer she will intern with the Asset Management Group in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ New York Assurance Practice. Her professional goals include earning her CPA and CFA, working abroad, and serving on the board of a non-profit organization.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library