Olga Stavrakis, PhD, is an anthropologist specializing in the development of culture, complex societies, and the modern transition from poverty to prosperity. During the course of a long and varied career, she has excavated ancient jungle cities, mapped prehistoric agricultural fields, and lived in remote villages in Africa, Asia, and Latin America while working on economic development projects for the United Nations, USAID, and the World Bank. Dr. Stavrakis received her PhD in anthropology from the University of Minnesota and holds degrees in archaeology, history, and geology from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Originally from Ukraine, she has traveled extensively and since her retirement in 2003, has been sharing her fascination with the variety of the human cultural experience. Over the last few years, she has been concentrating her travel on western Africa, not only lecturing but also writing article to help Westerners better understand this diverse region of the world.