Anthropologist Honored for Exemplary Service

Yolanda T. Moses guided development of national public education project on race and human variation

Yolanda T. Moses

The American Anthropological Association will honor Yolanda T. Moses with its highest honor for distinguished service.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – UC Riverside anthropologist Yolanda T. Moses, who spearheaded a national public education project on race and human variation that toured U.S. museums for seven years, is the 2015 recipient of the Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology. The award will be presented in November at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Denver.

Moses is a professor of anthropology and associate vice chancellor for diversity, excellence and equity.

The Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology, formerly the Distinguished Service Award, was established in 1976 and is presented annually by the AAA to members whose careers “demonstrate extraordinary achievements that have well served the anthropological profession,” according to the AAA. “Service to the association is commonly recognized, as are outstanding applications of anthropological knowledge to improving the human condition. … (A)ll awardees have made many sacrifices, usually without personal reward, and sometimes against personal safety. They have all used anthropology for the benefit of others.”

Moses, who joined the UCR faculty in 2003, was AAA president from 1995 to 1997 when development of the “RACE: Are We So Different?” project began. She chaired the 27-member, interdisciplinary, national advisory committee and remains a co-curator and co-principal investigator of the overall project, which includes three traveling exhibits, a book, an award-winning website, and downloadable materials for teachers, parents and the general public. The exhibits stop traveling this year after a seven-year tour to 55 U.S. cities.

The smaller version of the exhibit will be housed permanently at the Museum of Man in Balboa Park in San Diego. The RACE project was funded by the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

In a letter nominating Moses for the award, UCR anthropologists Wendy Ashmore and Christine Ward Gailey, and Carole Nagengast of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, wrote, “Yolanda Moses infuses her work with combined insights from anthropology and activism, applying the former to better the human condition. When she identifies a problem or issue, her immediate reaction is to assess how best to address it.”

Her research and writing on race and human diversity “have been pivotal in reawakening consideration of what we thought we know about the concept and the consequences,” the scholars said, describing Moses as a “respected scholar and educator; a skilled leader and administrator; a strong voice for social justice; an advocate for social change and for development of public policies that reduce the effects of inequality and enhance diversity in institutions, including universities and corporations.”

The co-authors also noted Moses’ work on increasing success for women, especially women of color, in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, including her role as a principal investigator on a UC-wide NSF Advance grant “in which she has been instrumental in fomenting means and methods for women at all stages of STEM careers.”

“Professor Moses extends a distinguished line of anthropologists involved in high profile, anti-racist scholarship and advocacy,” Ward Gailey, Ashmore and Nagengast said. “Her deep concern with public dissemination of findings from this scholarship builds from the interventions of Franz Boas. Her approach is comparative and historical, melding insights from all areas of anthropology.”

Moses earned her bachelor’s degree from California State University, San Bernardino, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in anthropology from UCR.

She previously served as board chair of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and president of the American Association for Higher Education. She is involved with several national higher education projects with the National Council for Research on Women, Campus Women Lead and The Women of Color Research Collective. She also is a consultant to the American Council on Education’s Project, on linking international and diversity issues.

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