Vanessa M. Hildebrand

Associate Professor of Sociology-Anthropology


  • B.A., Earlham College
  • M.A., University of Colorado
  • M.A., Washington University
  • Ph.D., Washington University


Dr. Vanessa Hildebrand is a cultural and medical anthropologist who investigates the complexities involved in providing medical care for vulnerable populations, especially women and infants. Most of her research focuses on the frontline caregivers who are in direct contact with people in need as well as how perceptions of medical expertise are developed in this context. Critical to this work is understanding how culture and ways of knowing about health and illness inform how people seek and understand health care as well as how that healthcare is practiced.

The majority of Dr. Hildebrand’s research is conducted in rural and semi-urban Eastern Indonesia where there are high infant and maternal mortality rates. Her ethnographic research focuses on the interactions between the women, midwives trained by global health programs called the “Skilled Birth Attendant,” and the shaman midwives whose practice is informed by highly localized understandings of the reproductive process. In the last few years Dr. Hildebrand has added her expertise to addressing the high infant and maternal mortality rates in Ohio. Dr. Hildebrand sits on several advisory boards in the United States that work to improve the care and health status of women and infants.

Dr. Hildebrand recognizes that teaching feeds her research and her research feeds her teaching. She especially enjoys engaging students on a variety of topics in her classes, including: human reproduction in cultural context, global health, families and kinship, social science research methods, theories on post-colonialism and development, Southeast and East Asia, cultural anthropology, and medical anthropology. She is currently working with the SOAN faculty to build an ethnographic research “lab” to offer research experience for OWU students. She looks forward to leading OWU Travel Learning trips to research sites in Indonesia and Taiwan. Dr. Hildebrand has won teaching awards in instruction, mentorship, and teaching professional writing.

Dr. Hildebrand received a M.A. and Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis. She received a M.A. in applied anthropology from the University of Colorado, Denver. Dr. Hildebrand graduated from Earlham College with a degree in sociology-anthropology. She came to OWU in 2019 and is very happy to be back home in a SOAN department at a liberal arts educational institution with a focus on undergraduate teaching.

Department Contact Info


Elliott Hall 205
Ohio Wesleyan University
Delaware, OH 43015
P 740-368-3906

Department Contact

Department Chair: Paul Dean
Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Justice
Elliott Hall 312

Academic Assistant: Deborah Lovell
Academic Assistant
Elliott Hall 110