PROFESSOR SPOTLIGHT: Michaela Howells — Anthropology and Women’s Studies

PROFESSOR SPOTLIGHT: Michaela Howells -- Anthropology and Women's Studies

Have you ever been curious about the person lecturing at the front of the classroom? In “Professor Spotlight,” we reach out to UNCW professors to learn more about these individuals teaching us every day. Stay tuned to see if any of your professors pop up!


NAME: Michaela Howells, PhD


POSITION: Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology

DEPARTMENT: Anthropology and Women’s Studies


What is your hometown?

Maple Valley, in Washington State

When did you come to Wilmington?

Four years ago from Boulder Colorado.

What was your undergraduate degree in?

I have a B.A. in anthropology and a B.S. in Primate Behavior and Ecology.

Where did you get your undergraduate degree?

Central Washington University, [in] Ellensburg, Washington (go Wildcats!)

What is your favorite thing about Wilmington?

The exceptional people who fight for justice.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Wilmington?

Candle Nut (Indonesian) and the San Juan Café (Puerto Rican). Tasty!

What is your favorite song?

I have the soundtracks for “Hamilton” and “Moana” on a repeating loop. So good!

What is your favorite spot on campus?

The steps of the library looking towards the bell tower. My dog Uli’s favorite place is in the bushes behind the library because she once found a whole donut there.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?

Movie: anything I can sing along to; TV: “Grey’s Anatomy”

What do you think is the most interesting part of your field of study?

Anthropology is called the “most humanistic of the sciences, and the most scientific of the humanities.” I am fascinated by the intersection of culture and biology, and study this through maternal risk of Zika in American Samoa, immune response to tattooing, and monkey and human interactions in Bali, Indonesia.

What is the last book you read?

“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. I definitely recommend it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A marine biologist and a veterinarian. I worried my stethoscope would get wet using it on whales.

What are your unique hobbies or talents?

I love swing dancing! I am a founding member of the Cape Fear Swing Dance Society, and am the faculty advisor for the Swingin’ Seahawks – come out and dance!

What do you wish you knew more about?

So many things. Restorative justice, public health, economics, history.

What is your dream destination?

I have worked in American Samoa for the past seven years. Anytime I can look up and see the Southern Cross in the stars I am at peace.

What is something on your bucket list?

To visit Charles Darwin’s home (Down House) in England – we are going this summer!

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their life?

Be present for the birth and death of another person.

What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

Snuggles with my Samoan dog Uli and great conversations with my husband (an anthropologist at ECU!)

Would you rather get up early or stay up late?

In the field? Early. At home? Late.

What advice can you give to students about life?

Be generous and forgiving. To your family, to your friends, to your loved ones, to your colleagues, and most importantly to yourself.