September 17, 2015

Fieldwork: Lessons Learned Outside the Classroom

by Rebecca Benison
“Every student who wants to do research in their undergrad years will have the opportunity to do that.” –Anagnostis Agelarakis, Ph.D..
Allison Adler '15 working in the field in Greece

Allison Adler ’15 working in the field in Greece

For many Adelphi students, getting hands-on experience in their field might involve a high-pressure internship in New York City or volunteer work with a local organization related to their college major. For Allison Adler ’15, an anthropology graduate, hands-on experience meant traveling around the world to the site of ancient Eleutherna during field school in Crete, Greece.

During her time there—under the tutelage of Anagnostis Agelarakis, Ph.D.—Adler and her research partner, Danaleah Schoenfuss, were able to observe the skeletal remains of a female and, via forensic study, determine the woman’s occupation.

“By looking at certain markers on the bones of this individual, we demonstrated this female’s role as a ceramicist, which is really unique, given that the production of ceramics was mainly a male profession in ancient Greece,” she said.

As she gained more knowledge and experience, the projects became more intensive. During her sophomore year, Adler was able to reconstruct the demographics and life conditions of populations in excavations at off-site locations in Naxos, Greece, and in the ancient Greek city of Klazomenai, located in present-day Turkey. Even without seeing the remains firsthand, Adler and her associates were able to draw conclusions based on field notes and images that previous researchers had brought back to Adelphi. It required a meticulous attention to detail and, most importantly, provided many learning opportunities.

“When reconstructing the demographics of a site, we often had to divide the remains into sex and age categories and create graphs and charts to illustrate these categorizations,” she said. “Although my partners and I worked with relatively small sets of remains, it was necessary to constantly check and recheck our data to ensure that all remains were accounted for and properly categorized.”

Though Adler took part in many different research projects with Dr. Agelarakis, it wasn’t until her junior year that she got started with the Center for Career Development’s Hire a Panther program, managed by Bernadine Waller, assistant director of experiential learning. Through this program, Adler was able to receive payment for her lab work, though the true reward came in the form of fieldwork and in-depth research, which—according to Dr. Agelarakis—equips students with additional skill sets that will help them grow as thinkers and global citizens.

“The students are able to take an idea, to test it and try to see if they can fine-tune what they think they have,” Dr. Agelarakis said. “You can take the idea, make it into a product, share it and present it. Allison has several undergraduate publications and is a great ambassador for what Adelphi has to offer.”

Dr. Agelarakis credited his own mentors with his drive to teach others. During his studies in Sweden, his teachers followed the mantra “We help you because we were helped.” In this same vein, he continues their tradition here at Adelphi, where opportunities are numerous.

“Every student who wants to do research in their undergrad years will have the opportunity to do that,” Dr. Agelarakis said. “Once they get into that route, instead of just going to classes and getting good grades, they are able to find inspiration by doing research.”

“Doing this research has given me a very solid foundation in forensic anthropology, which…has also exposed me to the process of transforming research into conference presentations,” Adler said, a skill she’s already had to call on when she presented at The Council for Undergraduate Research’s 2014 forum.

Adler is currently attending graduate school on scholarship at the University of British Columbia to pursue an M.A. in Anthropology with a concentration in museum studies.

This article appeared in the Career Compass Fall 2015 Newsletter.

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