University News

WIU Launches Different Paths, One Family Ancestry Project

April 21, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – The Western Illinois University Department of Political Science, the Multicultural Center (MCC) and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology will award 30 Ancestry kits to essential workers, first responders and others who are making exceptional contributions during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

British comedian Jeremy Hardy once said, "The thing that interests me most about family history is the gap between the things we think we know about our families and the realities."

"One thing we know about our WIU family is that despite being physically separated from each other as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus community is working together to adapt to teaching and learning online and by alternative teaching methods," said MCC Director Rocio Ayard Ochoa. "The values that are the pillars of our WIU family – academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth and social responsibility - will guide us as we navigate our way through this unprecedented moment in history. "

For the second consecutive year, has donated 30 DNA kits to the local community so individuals can learn more about their biological backgrounds, said Political Science Professor Julia Albarracin. WIU students, faculty and staff are encouraged to nominate someone who is an essential worker, first responders, or is otherwise making an essential contribution to the community during these unprecedented times.

A panel will select the winners from entries received by Friday, May 1. Participants will record their expectations about what they think they might find from the DNA test, and also record their reaction when they receive their results.

Those who would like to be included for consideration or would like to nominate someone, can visit, call (309) 836-5202, or email;; or Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad, at

"Our shared ancestry as humans shows how as a species, we all originate from present day Ethiopia. Some two million years ago we began walking out of Africa. Some walked to the north, some to the south, some to the east and others to the west. Along the way we created our own unique cultures and languages and ways of living," said McIlvaine-Newsad. "The lesson is that despite all our differences, we are one big family. Let's reaffirm our Leatherneck commitment to social responsibility by showing those around us that despite incredibly challenging times, the core values that make us Leathernecks are the values that guide us to empathy and success."

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