Reflecting on the Faculty Fellow Experience: Last days at Augustana College
It’s the last few days of Spring term and my time as the Diversity Faculty Fellow in the department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Welfare here at Augustana College is coming to an end. I can’t believe this is happening so soon. I have tremendously enjoyed my time teaching and being able to work with the amazing faculty in the anthropology department. To commemorate our last class meeting together, I gave my students the chance to tell me one thing they are taking away from this 10-week journey into the world of African Diaspora archaeology. Their responses really made me proud because I could see that they valued this experience just as much as I did. I can truly say I learned from my students as much as they learned from me, simply because they really kept me on my toes with the questions they brought forward during our discussions that made me have to go back and find out more information or consider the topic from a different perspective.
In our last few class meetings the students pressed me to have a more open dialogue with them about issues of diversity in archaeology and my personal motives for choosing this career. They asked me the following questions:
How or why did you choose to go into a field that only recently (late 1960s) acknowledged that people who look like you are worth studying?
Do you think you feel more personally connected to this material than other archaeologists?
How did you make the choice to study archaeology when you didn’t know anyone who looked like you doing it?
Is it hard for you to read slave narratives?
What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
Why isn’t this stuff taught in history books? Do you see history books used in public education ever changing to include more of the contributions of people of African descent?
To answer all these questions I offered them a short story about my experiences as a young black girl living in Oklahoma with a father from Tennessee and a mother from Tuskegee, AL, who taught me more about my history and heritage than I ever learned in school. As I grew up, I slowly realized that the things my community taught me were not common knowledge to everyone and I was somewhat dismayed by the lack of attention to people of color and the African continent even in so called world history courses. I didn’t learn what archaeology was until high school when I started taking Latin, and again as the only black student in the room I realized my interests were different than most people who looked like me. In college my love of Latin, Greek, anthropology, and museum studies flourished but I could never afford to actually travel and join an archaeological dig, which is a major impediment for many minority students interested in archaeology. So it wasn’t until grad school that everything came together for me and I decided to fully focus on the Archaeology of the African Diaspora. Here is where I discovered not only other people who looked like me engaged with this work but I also found out that the best way to bring attention to overlooked parts of history and impact change is to answer the call to engage in the research and spread the knowledge you gain to everyone else. So I had to decide if this is really important to me it shouldn’t matter who else is doing it.
Overall, I really enjoyed hearing their thoughts and concerns about the field of archaeology and the global concept of the African Diaspora because their thoughts represent the future of our discipline and I know the questions they are asking now will be on some researchers mind one day. Who knows, one of these Augie students could be the next big name archaeologist in the making, but no matter where they decide to go from here I have nothing but confidence in their ability to succeed. It has been my pleasure to teach such an amazing group of students.
But don’t take my word for it, see what these students had to say themselves….
I asked each student to write one thing they are taking away from this course and these are their responses.