Gil Kushner Memorial Travel Award

Gilbert Kushner - notorious for developing applied anthropology as a graduate discipline

Gilbert Kushner was a longtime SfAA Fellow and winner of the Sol Tax Distinguished Service Award in 2005. Internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in establishing applied anthropology as a graduate discipline, he served as Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, Tampa from 1971 to 1985 and as Associate Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences from 1971 until 1978. By the time Gil retired at the end of the 20th century, the USF Department of Anthropology was a thriving intellectual center of applied research with more than 60 MA students and more than 40 enrolled in its highly regarded applied doctoral program.

Recognizing that early field research experiences provide indelible impressions and insights that guide anthropologists in their future work, Gil was committed to securing internships and research opportunities for applied anthropology students. Observing first-hand the struggles of people who are often colonized and oppressed was a humbling and enlightening outcome of his own early field study of immigrants from India to Israel. He described his academic areas of expertise as “applied/practicing anthropology; culture change/persistence.” Persistence was much more than a key word in Gil’s life; it was a moral stance that informed his research, his contributions to the academy and his enduring commitment to ethics and human rights. The titles of his publications tell the story, including “People without Power: The Administered Community in International Human Rights” and the 1981 collection co-edited with GP Castile, Persistent Peoples: Cultural Enclaves in Perspective. As early as 1965, Gil published an analysis of the Mau Mau movement as an example of cultural revitalization—the re-energizing of beliefs, values and practices with which human communities resist oppression and celebrate their identities. Human Rights and Anthropology, an anthology he co-edited in 1988 with Theodore Downing, was the first collection focused on a now-established area of research about human rights issues and their impact on “persistent peoples” worldwide.



Two awards of $750 each are available to students who meet the eligibility qualifications.


  • Individuals must have been enrolled as a student during some part of the current year 
  • Submitted a paper or poster abstract which has been accepted for the annual meeting program. Following the contributions of Gil's professional life, the abstract (and paper or poster) should be concerned with the persistence of cultural groups. 

    Each Kushner Award winner will receive a scholarship of $750 toward their travel expenses to attend the SfAA annual meeting.

Application and Deadline

Application & Deadline

Applicants must submit a written statement not to exceed two, double-spaced pages. The statement should explain how participation in the annual meeting will further the professional goals of the applicant. The statement may also include information, which documents the interest of the applicant in the persistence of cultural groups. 

Online Application

The deadline for submission is December 20. The results of the competition will be announced in January.

Previous Recipients


Sandi Assaf

Assaf.jpegMy name is Sandi Assaf, and I am an anthropology major from the University of California, Los Angeles. My academic interests lie at the intersection of medicine and anthropology as I aim to constantly improve patient care through observation and research. Beyond research, I am also passionate about addressing pressing social issues such as mental illness and food insecurity among the unhoused.

Amy Shields

Shields.jpegAmy Shields is a returning graduate student in anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She also holds a law degree and works as an attorney advisor for the Social Security Administration but is hoping to use her master's degree in anthropology to help her transition to another area of the law, such as immigration or human rights. Amy is the mother of two children, who are also university students, and they enjoy studying as a family.


Oswaldo Medina-Ramírez

oswaldo_medina_ramirez.jpegOswaldo Medina-Ramírez is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of Florida specializing in governance and public policy. As an interdisciplinary researcher/practitioner, he has worked in various policy and management positions with the government of Ecuador and has conducted research with state and civil society organizations throughout the Americas. His doctoral research focuses on participatory environmental governance, particularly the role of state officials in promoting more democratic modes of governing water in the tropics. He is part of the Inducing Resilience for Water-Subsidized Systems Project, an effort to strengthen connections between the social and natural sciences at the University of Florida Water Institute. Oswaldo holds an M.A. in Sustainable Development Practice from the University of Florida, and a B.Sc. in Socioeconomic Development and Environment from Zamorano University (Honduras). 


Ipshita Ghosh

Ms. Ghosh is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at Maxwell School, Syracuse University, with interests in global finance, social movements, ghoshdevelopment and humanitarianism. Her research, centered in India, examines entrepreneurship as a cultural formation with multiple actors, ideologies and values at play. Ipshita’s dissertation looks at the ways in which state policy and global investment capital reframe the heterogenous strands of entrepreneurial activity in India into a single narrative that reproduces a neoliberal startup culture and reinstates socio-economic hierarchies. Ipshita also enjoys teaching anthropology and building productive dialogues across disciplines, in and outside the classroom. 

Ipshita holds a Master’s in Contemporary India Studies from University of Oxford, a Master’s in Public Administration from Maxwell School, Syracuse University and a Bachelor with Honors in English from Delhi University. 

Samantha Streuli

strueliSamantha Streuli is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at UCSD. Her work is broadly focused on health disparities, disability, and public health interventions, especially among migrants and refugees. She is particularly interested in how technology may be leveraged in the development of interventions and how conceptualizations of dis/ability impact the experiences of migrants and refugees.


Erika Finestone

2019 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Erika FinestoneErika Finestone is a doctoral candidate in social-cultural anthropology at the University of Toronto, and an Indigenous Studies instructor at The University of Victoria. Her community-based research focusses on the development and maintenance of urban Indigenous kinship networks in Victoria, B.C. in the context of ongoing and disproportionate Indigenous child-removal. Over three years of research, Erika has been privileged to witness how urban Indigenous families work with and against the state to resist extractive child welfare interventions, thereby protecting connections to kin, community, and territory. Erika also co-facilitates a workshop in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous caregivers are offered space to creatively express and honour personal experiences of family resiliency. In her role as a project manager with the Indigenous Education Department at University of Victoria, Erika supports initiatives that build capacity for anticolonial education in Canada. As a settler of Polish and Romanian descent and Jewish ancestry, Erika’s journey towards this work grew through engaging more deeply with her own people’s story of survival and resistance during and after the Jewish Holocaust. Her work is energized by an intention to listen open-heartedly to stories of survivance and, carrying that knowledge, will continue to work collaboratively with communities to alter colonial power relations and support Indigenous lifeways. 

Daniel Bagheri Sarvestani

2019 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Daniel Bagheri SarvestaniDaniel Bagheri Sarvestani, is a PhD student at the University of Kansas, and a Canadian Human Rights advisor. He has been volunteering and working internationally for the better part of the past 7 years. Through his field work, Daniel has developed connections with tribal indigenous communities in Western Asia (Iran), Central America (Costa Rica, Panama, and Honduras) and North America (Canada).  His work currently focuses on the application of Indigenous Peoples Rights Discourses in the context of the Maya Ch’orti communities of North-Western Honduras, under the supervision of Professor Brent Metz  (University of Kansas). 


Luminiţa Mandache

Luminiţa-Anda Mandache is a Ph.D. Candidate in Socio-cultural Anthropology at the School of 2018 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Luminita MandacheAnthropology, University of Arizona. Her research analyzes different grassroots strategies and discourses of problem-solving, implemented in a context of structural poverty and drug-related violence, at the periphery of the northeastern city of Fortaleza. Her research interests focus on Latin America but also Eastern Europe, poverty, social movements, activism, urban violence, and alternative economies.

Monika Wanis

2018 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Monika WanisI am originally from Cairo, Egypt but have lived in Columbus, Ohio for the past 20 years. I have traveled to over 20 different countries and I speak Arabic, English, Spanish, and Russian. As an undergraduate student I studied Anthropology, Psychology, Integrative Medicine and Neuroscience. My undergraduate Honors Thesis project was conducted in the Clinical Psychology department at The Ohio State University. It was a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examining the neural correlates of emotion regulation in older and younger adults.

I am the Treasurer of the Anthropology Club, a graduate teaching assistant in the department of Anthropology, and the Executive Vice President of the Graduate Student Association at the University of Alabama. I am also a second year Biocultural Medical Anthropology masters student interested in cross cultural differences in health seeking behaviors. I study traditional, complementary, and alternative medicine in order to understand why people seek traditional healers and alternative therapies as opposed to biomedical practitioners and biomedical practices. My goal is to continue exploring various healing modalities from particularly the middle east, with the hope of integrating a holistic, well rounded approach to Western healthcare frameworks.


Sonya Petrakovitz

2017 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Sonya PetrakovitzSonya Petrakovitz is a Doctoral Student at Case Western Reserve University studying Medical and Psychological Anthropology. Her research interests are situated at the intersections of identity, cultural persistence, resistance, traditional medicines, and commodification in tourism-based economies. Her area of interest, Rapa Nui (“Easter Island”), is uniquely situated to study the confluence of these theories because of its naturally bounded population, formidable history of oppression, and economic dependency.

Sonya received her Masters in Medical Anthropology from CWRU (2017) and is also working towards a second Masters in Bioethics. She has a Bachelor of Science in Photojournalism (2013) and a Bachelor of Arts in Classical History (2010). 

Rachel Shah

2017 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Rachel ShahRachel is an anthropologist of education and international development, currently based at Durham University in the UK. Her PhD research investigated the extent to which schooling and indigenous forms of education are incompatible for children living in the rural Papuan highlands of Indonesia, and what the consequences of this are for Papuan people and cultures. Her findings suggest that although children can potentially participate in different education systems simultaneously, indigenous understandings of the purpose of schooling differ significantly from those of external stakeholders. While external stakeholders are focused on individual and national benefits, indigenous stakeholders are focused on benefits for networks of kin, and on the ways schooling can enable them to gain equality globally, and ensure the persistence of their cultures. An understanding of such differences is critical to both local and global debates about how schools can be used to prevent rather than to further the colonisation, oppression and marginalisation of indigenous peoples.

Rachel also enjoys teaching anthropology, challenging students' preconceptions about human diversity, and promoting rigorous ethnographic research undertaken in the context of genuine partnerships between different stakeholders.


Kimberly Berg

2016 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Kiberly Berg with horses in the backgroundKimberly Berg is a Ph.D. candidate at the State University of New York at Albany, in the Department of Anthropology, with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology.  Her research interests include the politics of heritage, heritage networks, minority and diaspora nationalism, and identity.  Kimberly recently returned from fieldwork in the Patagonian region of Argentina, where she worked with the Welsh diaspora community to understand the ways that the community consolidates local resources, as well as gains assistance from entities in the homeland, to maintain a distinct regional heritage.  Kimberly obtained her M.A. from the Department of Anthropology at Iowa State University (2011) with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology, where she explored Welsh nationalist ideologies as they are presented through industrial heritage site narratives in the north of Wales.  She received Iowa State's Excellence in Research award for this project.  Kimberly finished her B.A. magna cum laude in Cultural Anthropology from Minnesota State University, Mankato (2007).  Her other interests include applied work with developmental disabilities planning agencies, to infuse culturally and linguistically competent practices throughout mental and behavioral health and DD service delivery systems.

Danielle Ringer

2016 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Danielle Ringer on a pierDanielle Ringer is from Homer, Alaska and received her B.A. degree in Anthropology/Sociology from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She is currently pursuing her interdisciplinary Master's degree in the Sustainability of Rural Fishing Communities and working as a research assistant on the Graying of the Fleet in Alaska's Fisheries: Defining the Problem and Assessing Alternatives study in Kodiak, Alaska. Danielle focuses on how rural community development strategies and a better understanding of issues impacting commercial fishermen can aid in the sustainability and health of coastal people and places. She plans to graduate this summer and looks forward to incorporating these interests in her future work. 


Deborah Andrews

2015 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Deborah AndrewsDeborah Andrews is a Ph.D Candidate with a concentration in cultural anthropology at the University of Florida. Her primary research interests are ethnobotany, environmental anthropology, globalization, and human rights. Her current research is on the biodiversity consequences of globalized agriculture via social networks of Andean quinoa farmers in Peru. Deborah holds an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Florida, a J.D. from the University of Florida, and a B.A. from the University of Maryland in Psychology. Deborah practiced law in Washington, D.C. and Florida, before returning to graduate school. 

Elizabeth Eklund

2015 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Elizabeth EklundElizabeth Eklund's research interest is the intersection of people and nature. As part of a project that resulted in a master's degree from San Diego State University, she is studying an international framework for establishing protected areas (UNESCO's Man in the Biosphere, Biosphere Reserve program), focusing on the process of proposing a new Biosphere Reserve in the Sierras Guadalupe and Giganta in Baja California Sur. Previous projects include: assisting with the coordination of a binational workshop on the Tijuana River Watershed held in Tijuana, Baja California, and Imperial Beach, California (Southwest Consortium for Environmental Research and Policy, San Diego State University); an environmental sciences master's degree from University of Virginia, Charlottesville, on how natural and cultural resources are protected in US National Park and National Forest systems; and a senior thesis (University of California, Berkeley) on how crows and ravens were discussed in the field notes of zoologists in the San Francisco Bay Area. Elizabeth is currently a socio-cultural anthropology Ph.D student at the University of Arizona, focusing on transboundary watersheds and collaboration with communities. 


Eliza Guyol-Meinrath

2014 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Eliza Guyol-MeinrathEliza Guyol-Meinrath is a Ph.D student with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her primary research interests are conflict and genocide studies, as well as the relationship between globalization, development and human rights. Her current research focuses on the legacies of violence in Guatemala and Peru, assessing the ways global, national and local understandings and applications of justice and human rights intersect. Eliza holds an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2010) and a B.A. cum laude in Classical Archaeology from the University of Evansville (2007) with minors in Spanish and Anthropology. 

Amelia Tseng

2014 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Amelia TsengAmelia Tseng is a Ph.D Candidate with a concentration in sociolinguistics in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University. Her primary research interests are the sociolinguistics of language contact and (im)migration, specifically language and identity practices, with focus on multilingualism and emergent dialects. Her current research examines these topics in U.S. Latino communities using sociolinguistic variation analysis, linguistic anthropology, sociophonetics, and discourse analytic methodology. Amelia’s dissertation project, supported by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, addresses the relationship between language as a social practice, the development of contact “ethnolects,” and Latino identity in Washington, D.C. She has also published on code-switching and bilingual radio. Amelia holds an M.S. in Linguistics from Georgetown University (2011), an M.A. in Spanish from Arizona State University (2009), and a B.A. magna cum laude in English Honors and Spanish from Wellesley College (2002).


Blessing Ozioma Okoroafor

2013 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Blessing Ozioma OkoroaforI am a PhD candidate in Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. My research interests include American politics, immigration and social policy, race and ethnicity and political incorporation.
My dissertation focuses on the integration of refugees through social services during resettlement, particularly focusing on three indicators of integration. Through the interviews of key service delivery agents and of refugees, my dissertation will explore refugee acculturation vis-à-vis governmental service, and in particular the ways in which health care, education and employment assistance lends to economic and social integration for refugees.

I hold both my BA and MA degrees in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Gina Watkinson

2013 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Gina WatkinsonGina Watkinson is a graduate student in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona and the Conservation Assistant at the Arizona State Museum. Gina is interested in the preservation of material culture and cultural revitalization within indigenous communities. Her current research focuses on the persistence of Southwest Native basketry despite the disruptive change that occurred with the influx of settlers to the Southwest in the early 1900s. Today, basketweavers continue to face issues that challenge the maintenance of this traditional practice including, the inability to access material and the destruction of plant habitats. Regardless of these threats, Native weaver’s ability to retain their identity, continue their knowledge of basketry technology and plant materials, and express leadership through partnerships, demonstrates their resiliency. Gina is also concerned with issues pertaining to water management and natural resource sustainability. In the future, Gina hopes to continue to work with Native communities and basketry organizations.


Zohra Ismail Beben

2012 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Zohra Ismail BebenZohra Ismail Beben is a doctoral candidate in environmental anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington. Her areas of interest include anthropology of disaster, discourses of risk, place and space, natural resource management and anthropology of development.  Her dissertation focused on how discourses of risk are formulated in post-Soviet rural Tajikistan. 

Her dissertation, based on seventeen months of field research supported by IREX Individual Advanced Research Opportunities and Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, investigates the processes of place-making and knowledge production in post-Soviet Tajikistan, focusing on how the understanding of the environment is influenced by social and political factors. Specifically, she evaluates the discourses of disaster, risk, and danger that exist both as ideologies and as a set of enacted practices, and that have defined the relationships of people to their mountain homes during both the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. She discusses the expert production of risk typologies that influence decisions about development funding and more broadly attempt to define the nature of life in rural Tajikistan, and compares these with indigenous conceptions of risk drawn from ethnographic data. Through her study she seeks to shed light on the various ways in which community members, local and national elites, and development agents are vying to shape the perspectives on place and history in Tajikistan

Her work speaks to the concerns of Gilbert Kushner in exploring the question of how in the face of such overwhelming political reconfiguration, brought by the collapse of the Soviet Union, a sense of place and a community survive in the mountainous regions of Tajikistan, especially in places such as Gorno-Badakhshan and Zeravshan.  In the future she hopes to engage in work that finds sustainable local ways to mitigate the long-term damage to the life and livelihood of mountain communities facing increasing threats from natural disasters. 

Catherine Sanders

2012 Gil Kushner Memorial Award Winner Catherine SandersCatherine Sanders has a Master’s degree specializing in medical anthropology. She has done ethnographic and applied work with populations in the US, East Africa, and South Asia, on topics ranging from drug use to agricultural intensification to post-conflict health and development. Her research focuses on the role of social supports in alleviating vulnerability, and the relationships among health and development in regions impacted by scarcity. She is interested in applications of anthropology for improved implementation of health and development projects in the developing world, and in understanding local responses to risks and innovations. She has helped teach a wide variety of courses for undergraduates in the Anthropology Department at the University of Montana, Missoula. While she finishes her PhD in medical anthropology, she is assisting in data management and analysis for the ISIS Foundation’s health development projects in Nepal and Uganda.

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