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By Danielle J. Kolin and Naveen N. Srivatsa, Crimson Staff Writers

Anthropology professor Richard W. Wrangham and non-profit founder Elizabeth A. Ross will effectively cede their roles as Currier House Masters during the next school year as they take a sabbatical abroad, according to an e-mail signed by the couple sent to the Currier House community last night.

Harvard Law School Professor James L. Cavallaro ’84 and Nadejda Marques, a research coordinator at the Harvard School of Public Health, will take their place while Wrangham and Ross travel through Europe, Africa, and Japan.

“We’ve spent some time with them, and we think they’re wonderful,” Wrangham said of the new House Masters.

During their year-long leave, Wrangham and Ross will spend two months in Tanzania studying the Hazda hunter-gatherer people, focusing primarily on their intense dependence on fire. The pair plans to attach themselves to a Hazda camp, where Wrangham will shadow the men and Ross will follow the women of the community.

Last May, Wrangham wrote “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human,” a book about the impact of cooking on human evolution. He said traveling to Tanzania will allow him to study the effects of fire directly.

“In terms of the House, I regret it because we love being House Masters here, but it’s a terrific opportunity for me to do various kinds of research,” Wrangham said.

In addition to living in a savanna in northern Tanzania, the two will also spend about two weeks at a conference in Japan, where Wrangham has a speaking engagement. Later, they will travel to Uganda, where Ross is the founder and executive director of the non-profit Kasiisi Project, which aids Ugandan education.

As a professor at the College, Wrangham is on an accelerated sabbatical schedule, which gives him the opportunity to travel.

“A sabbatical is a wonderful time to deepen one’s research,” Wrangham said. “I’m looking forward to doing some writing, and I’m also looking forward to developing some new courses.”

Wrangham, a biological anthropologist by training, has taught courses in human evolutionary biology and anthropology.

When the two return, Wrangham said they will “absolutely” reoccupy their positions as Currier House Masters.

“We’re not giving up on Currier at all, and we’ll be back for Commencement to see the current juniors when they are seniors,” Wrangham said.

Wrangham and Ross began their tenure as House Masters in 2008.

The House Masters of Cabot, Eliot, and Mather Houses announced their plans to step down from the position at the end of this academic year. No replacements have been announced by Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds.

—Staff writer Danielle J. Kolin can be reached at          —Staff writer Naveen N. Srivatsa can be reached at

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