Welcome back to our blog series on research and historical laboratories on MSU’s campus! In our last blog, we talked about the first two laboratories on campus, the Chemistry and Botanical Laboratories. Both laboratories highlight MSU’s commitment to agriculture, as a better understanding of the hard …
Welcome back to our blog series on research and historical laboratories on MSU’s campus! In our last blog, we outlined how the university gained its start with an emphasis on scientific research and its uses for agriculture. Although the College used as much of its …
Since March 2020, our world here in Michigan and in the United States has come undone. Inequities invisible to some but known and repeatedly experienced by people of color, particularly Black Michiganders, in the past and present have been laid bare before our feet. To date, 18,229 Black Michiganders, who constitute 14.1% of the state’s population, have contracted COVID-19. In contrast, 21,968 White Michiganders have contracted COVID-19, while they make up 79.3% of the state. 2,897 White Michiganders have died of COVID-19, while 2,248 Black Michiganders have passed of it to date. To state it bluntly, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black Americans in our state.
These gross inequities are the result of systemic racial violence enacted against communities of color in our state and country. Black communities are more likely to be subjected to police and government surveillance as well as policing tactics that involve the use of militarized equipment and technologies that increase rather than decrease the likelihood of injury and death. Black Americans constitute 40% of the incarcerated population while they represent only 13% of the American population. Black men are more likely to die at the hands of police than any other group of people in the United States. Exacerbating these issues is the fact that Black communities in Michigan are less likely to have access to clean water, food, and affordable healthcare, medication, and housing.
Black Americans who have kept the state and country operating and safe amid COVID-19 have also been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Jason Hargrove, a bus driver in Detroit who worked during the pandemic, lost his life to COVID-19 after a woman passenger on his bus coughed near him without covering her face. In other states, Blacks on the front lines have also faced the dual injustices of experiencing racism and violence while potentially sacrificing their lives working during a pandemic. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT) working to save lives during the COVID-19 crisis, was shot while sleeping in her home in Kentucky by police. Her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the wake of her death. Even when Black Americans have sought to help others in the most trying of times, they are still faced with the ugly stain of racism that we should all be decrying in this country.
We, at CAP, recognize Black communities are already acutely aware of these statistics and lived realities. We are writing because we are making a promise to make internal changes to work towards addressing and eradicating white supremacy in our work, in the culture of the archaeologists we train, and in academia as a whole. Though we are still working on identifying how we can better serve communities of color on MSU’s campus in the coming years, we commit to enacting the following policies in the year to come:
- Diversity training when new staff join CAP that is evidence-based and confronts the specific legacy of racism and sexual harassment in the discipline of archaeology.
- Listening sessions with the students and communities of color we serve on and off-campus to inform and improve programming and outreach work.
- Dedicating a minimum of one blog post a month during the academic year to the history of communities of color on MSU’s campus and/or identifying and amplifying the work of archaeologists of color.
- A lecture on the history of race relations on campus at the beginning of every CAP field archaeology school.
We, at the MSU Campus Archaeology Program, have spent much of this year in reflection regarding our role on campus and in a society rife with violence. We underserve some communities and overserve others. As we move forward, we refuse to be bystanders to the violence enacted against Black Americans and people of color. We pledge to do better, to learn and listen, and, in doing so, stand with the Black Lives Movement.
For those of you who wish to join us in working towards justice and equality, we encourage you to read critical interventions on the archaeology of African Americans, the African diaspora, and on the archaeology of race. Our list is just a small sample of the many readings out there on this topic. We intend to expand upon it in the coming months and we welcome suggested additions to the list.
Dr. Stacey L. Camp and the CAP Staff
Tobacco, Pipes, and Race in Colonial Virginia by Anna S. Agbe-Davies
The Materiality of Freedom: Archaeologies of Postemancipation Life edited by Jodi A. Barnes
Black Feminist Archaeology by Whitney Battle-Baptiste
The Taphonomy of Disaster and the (Re)Formation of New Orleans by Shannon Lee Dawdy
Toward an Antiracist Archaeology by Mia L. Carey
Assessing Heritage Resources in St. Croix Post‐Hurricanes Irma and Maria by Justin P. Dunnavant, Ayana Omilade Flewellen, Alexandra Jones, Alicia Odewale, and William White
Critical Race Theory and the Archaeology of the African Diaspora by Terrence Epperson
A Black Feminist-Inspired Archaeology? by Maria Franklin
The Rosewood Massacre: An Archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence by Edward González-Tennant
Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance by Cheryl Janifer LaRoche
Archaeologies of Race and Urban Poverty: The Politics of Slumming, Engagement, and the Color Line by Paul R. Mullins and Lewis C. Jones
Archaeology for the Next Generation by Alicia Odewale, Justin Dunnavant, Ayana Flewellen, and Alexandra Jones
The Archaeology of Race and Racialization in Historic America by Charles E. Orser, Jr.
Detroit 139: Archaeology and the Future-Making of a Post- Industrial City by Krysta Ryzewski
Slavery behind the Wall: An Archaeology of a Cuban Coffee Plantation by Theresa A. Singleton
The Archaeology of Antislavery Resistance by Terrance Weik
The Archaeology of Mothering: An African-American Midwife’s Tale by Laurie Wilkie
We are all familiar with Michigan State University’s (MSU) status as a part of the top ten conference (Go Spartans!) and for its place as a top tier research university (recently ranked in the top 8% nationwide). In fact, MSU offers 170 degrees for undergraduate …
The Campus Archaeology Program has been hard at work this semester prepping for our collaborative event with Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. The goal of this event is to teach young women about a career path in archaeology and award them with an archaeology badge …
To celebrate world anthropology day, the current CAP graduate fellows wanted to share how they became interested in anthropology, and some current or favorite projects they are involved in!
Grace: As a first-year PhD student moving to a new state and school, I initially came to CAP to move out of my comfort zone and get to know my own field a little better. I came in with no experience in archaeology and very little exposure to anthropology so CAP presented itself as a way I could learn more about the field in an applied manner. As was mentioned in my blog post from earlier this month, I was drawn to the focus on outreach and education that CAP emphasizes. Coming from a background in education and youth studies, I have always been very passionate about working with youth and community-engaged research practices. Outreach events such as the haunted tour have proven to be a fantastic example of how to get young people interested in research and the sciences.
This semester, CAP fellow Benjamin Akey and I have conducted research to highlight unsung voices from MSU’s graduate student body. Our particular focus is on the history of the Asian pacific American Graduate Alliance (APAGA) which has been a place of professional and social support for the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American community. The initial idea came from our archival research on the history of the graduate school which showed us that there has been very few records kept that highlight Asian American voices. This semester we look forward to doing what we can to add to supplement the overlooked parts of MSU’s history through an oral history project in collaboration with APAGA founders as well as the MSU Archives. Because I was not well versed in archaeological research methods, the openness that CAP has to diverse forms of research came as a pleasant surprise. As an organization that values community, I think that our current project will serve to bolster community interest in the role that various forms of archaeology can play in recording underrepresented histories.
Ben: While I had taken the opportunity to start taking anthropology courses at my local community college during high school, my fascination with archaeology began the summer after I graduated—on a field school in the rural highlands of Ecuador. I had come intending to focus on the ethnographic components of the field school, but quickly found myself enamored with the pace and physicality of archaeological fieldwork, and gained a new appreciation for how the materiality of the past could be integrated into critical and community-engaged scholarship. While other crews were assigned to Incan fortress sites, I spent the majority of my time helping a PhD Candidate who was interested in studying changing land-use and ownership patterns following the establishment of the Spanish hacienda system in Ecuador. Hearing about why he was interested in these topics—and why he felt archaeology was an efficacious method for exploring them—sparked an enduring personal interest in historical archaeology and relationships of power, resistance, and identity. On return from this trip, I became more involved with the community college’s local archaeological projects and picked up laboratory and survey skillsets which further served to bolster my interest in the subdiscipline.
Upon transferring to UC Santa Cruz for my undergraduate degree, I started to focus on archaeological courses, with a particular emphasis on historical archaeologies of indigenous communities and colonialism. While I remain strongly interested in these topics, the trajectory of my own research foci shifted somewhat when I became involved in excavations at two 19th century lime kilns on and nearby the UC Santa Cruz campus, leading me to begin engaging with historical archaeologies of labor, capitalism, and immigration. These themes ultimately structured my senior thesis project, in which I examined alcohol consumption between two industrial company-towns in Santa Cruz county in relation to diasporic identities and as a form of resistance to paternalistic social controls and class-based victorian moral expectations of temperance. Besides the narrow frame of alcohol consumption, these themes continue to shape my research aims; my current project seeks to understand how contexts of radicalized industrial labor and anti-asian exclusion movements shaped processes of identity formation among early North American Japanese communities in the 20th century.
Amber: During my time as an undergraduate at Texas State University, I changed my major several times before finding Anthropology. I started undergrad in the Interior Design program, explored majors in Math and Biology, and finally switched to Anthropology with the intention of doing archaeology in Greece and/or Egypt. My parents had a bookshelf in my childhood home full of old National Geographic and Discover magazines and I used to spend hours laying in the floor reading through them. There was one that I read repeatedly on ancient Egyptian mummies. This fascination encouraged me to explore a career in archaeology which eventually led to taking elective courses on forensic anthropology and forensic osteology. My forensic osteology class showed me how remains of the deceased can be used to answer questions about the living in past and present populations. I quickly realized that a career in Biological Anthropology was what I had been searching for: a fulfilling job that can provide services to others, a way to meld hard and social sciences, and…of course…travel.
I have had the opportunity to travel to Belize, Greece, Thailand, Colombia, England, and many states in the U.S. for work. If I had to choose my favorite project so far, I would say it is the Mississippi State Asylum project in Jackson, Mississippi. A total of 67 individuals in standardized pine coffins were uncovered during road construction on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus. My master’s thesis examined differential health across inmate demographic groups using patterns of oral health indicators. I was interested in determining whether varying life histories influenced survivorship within the asylum environment and whether patients experienced differential treatment based on their sex or ancestry. We combined skeletal data with asylum written records to explore these questions. This sample was also compared to noninstitutionalized samples from the Southeastern U.S. to determine how health and mortality might be impacted by institutionalization. Being involved in the entire process of this project from excavation to data management, curation, and analysis was an invaluable and rare experience for a graduate student. I am very fortunate to have been involved and grateful to the patients and their families for allowing us to carry out this project. There is an ongoing effort to identify these individuals and return them to families for proper reburial.
Rhian: When I applied to UC Santa Barbara for undergrad, I only had a vague idea of what anthropology was – everything I knew came from tv shows or movies I had watched growing up (cue Indiana Jones, as typical as that may seem). In fact, I actually enrolled with the intention to get a degree in philosophy. However, when I took my first anthropology course, Intro to Biological Anthropology, during my first year I realized that all of the questions that intrigued me in philosophy, such as what makes us human, could be investigated in a more scientific, evolutionary framework. As I took more courses in anthropology and was introduced to osteology and the field’s forensic applications, my focus shifted – I realized that this was the path I wanted to take, as I loved how the applied aspect of forensic anthropology can make a difference to modern, local communities and bring closure to family members.
Following undergrad, I continued on to get a masters in forensic anthropology at Mercyhurst University, which helped further develop my passion for the field and for how we can work to refine identification methods. In fact, through my doctoral degree at MSU, I am to hoping to continue working with biological profile methods – specifically, I am hoping to investigate the utility of postcranial metrics for ancestry estimation, as this has received less attention in the field and needs better standardization. But, I love how the field of anthropology always has an open door policy and welcomes forensic students like me to engage in programs like Campus Archaeology with open arms. While I’m only in my first year at MSU, I look forward to these opportunities and how I can use my forensic experience to inform my CAP research and vice versa, which I know will make me a well-rounded and more prepared anthropologist during my career.
Jeff: Unlike a lot of archaeologists that I have worked with over the years, I was not introduced to the field at a young age. Even in college it did not immediately start out in anthropology. I matriculated into my university as an engineering major, and quickly switched to history after about a month. However, when I encountered the discipline in the second semester of my first year, I immediately fell in love. It was Introduction to Archaeology and because the class was taught by a Dr. Lauren Sullivan, a Mayanist, the major context of the class was of the history, peoples, and cultures of pre-colonial Mexico and central America. When Dr. Sullivan discussed her research and fieldwork, I felt that this was the engagement with the past that I had always longed for and which history had left unfulfilled. I also was awed by the stories of fieldwork in the jungle, so many stories about being chased up trees by wild boars!. Mostly though, I was amazed by the idea of touching and studying objects from the past, material culture. In this way, falling in love with seemingly exotic places, ancient civilizations, and thousand-year-old artifacts, my introduction to archaeology was typical.
Years later I find myself far more interested in the seemingly mundane, in the archaeology of the recent past in the United States. During my one and a half years in the PhD. program here at Michigan State University I have had the opportunity to work as an research assistant and intern cataloging, analyzing, and counting glass and ceramic vessels from two sites far more recent than the Mayan archaeology that I encountered in my undergraduate program. One site dates to the 1940s, barely older than my father, and on a daily basis I will encounter and become fascinated by spark plugs, jars of Vick’s VapoRub, and countless indiscriminate shards of colorless glass. I find myself losing time searching eBay, Etsy, and the Sears catalog to understand objects that are so frustratingly familiar, but just beyond my understanding. And when I do find out that that could be or the exact language to describe an object so the search engine will pull up pictures of it, I am probably far too pleased that I have identified a tobacco tin. The other site dates to the 1850s and while the artifacts are more typical – we have transfer printed pottery! – the artifacts came from field that was once an orchard and later soybean farm and these processes broke many of the artifacts into tiny fragments. I spend hours looking at thumb nail sized pieces of glass, pottery, and metal and while it is frustrating, I love it and again, feel a remarkable sense of joy when I identify the pattern on one of the tiny pieces. While my interests have changed over the years, I still am fascinated by material culture, the people who used and produced it people, and places they occupied, I just have a greater appreciation for how complex the seemingly mundane can be.
Welcome to the new decade – 2020! With the start of this new era, and our spring semester at Michigan State University, we are happy to continue working through the Campus Archaeology Program! In addition to working on our individual projects (detailed in our previous …
Chittenden Hall, current home of The Graduate School. At the time of photo, Chittenden was the Department of Forestry. Photo courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
As it stands today, graduate education makes up a substantial and integral part of Michigan State University’s operations and student body. Making up roughly 16.3% of the total student body, the university’s 8,132 graduate students—spread across 80 departments and 277 programs—fulfill many important teaching and research-related functions [1, 2]. However, the underexamined history of graduate education at MSU reveals a dynamic and nonlinear trajectory.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the the Graduate School, Grace Shu Gerloff (a fellow CAP fellow) and I have been working on an archives-centered project examining the history of graduate education at Michigan State University. One thing that immediately stuck out to us was that despite a long history of graduate students at MSU, the Graduate School was only boasting 25 years of service, prompting us to consider what events lead up to the founding of this administrative body. We quickly found out that a series of administrative organizations for the interdepartmental management of graduate studies preceded the current Graduate School, sparking a further interest in why it had been reorganized so many times. This post is a preliminary and partial look at some of what we’ve found so far, specifically focusing on early graduate education at MSU and the predecessors of the current organizational form of the graduate school.
The Early Years
Graduate education at the State Agricultural College (future Michigan State University) began in 1861, when a state statute enabled the Board of Trustees (then known as the ‘Board of Agriculture’) to confer degrees equivalent to those offered at the University of Michigan . Graduate study programs at this time were incredibly loosely organized, consisting of the automatic conferral of master’s degrees to any student who remained engaged in scientific study at the school for three years following the completion of their undergraduate degree . This dynamic quickly led to strong growth in graduate studies at the school; in 1879 a third of State Agricultural College alumni who were three years past graduation were awarded master’s degrees . This lead to early efforts to standardize and restrict the process of conferral, beginning in 1879 with the requirement of two years of study and the completion of a thesis . An alternate path to the master’s was introduced in 1881, consisting of a year of study, a final exam, and the completion of a thesis .
The peak of early graduate education at the State Agricultural College occurred in the 1890s, at which time almost one out of every ten enrolled students was seeking a master’s degree . This would not last however; in part owing to the decision to stop offering courses during the summer months (beginning in 1879) and a rule that resident graduate study must be full-time and exclusive, leading many students with other responsibilities to choose another path . With the formation of a Committee on Graduate Studies in 1913, revival of summer instruction in 1914, and emerging financial assistance programs for graduate students—including an industrial fellowship offered by the Heinz Pickle Company and the institution of graduate assistantship positions by the Board of Trustees—enrollment grew, but only temporarily [3, 4].
At the onset of David Friday’s presidency of the school (at this time known as ‘Michigan Agricultural College’ or ‘M.A.C’ ) there were only 12 students engaged in graduate studies . Through the removal of rules that limited staff involvement in graduate study to vacation periods, Friday made quick progress in reviving the once glutted graduate programs, with 75 enrolled in 1923-4 and 151 enrolled by the 1925-6 school year . Under his tenure, seven departments were authorized to begin conferring doctoral degrees in farm crops, entomology, soils, horticulture, chemistry, botany, and bacteriology. The first Ph.D. was granted in 1925 to Edward J. Petry, whose dissertation focused on the role of root nodules in the nitrogen assimilation processes of Ceanothus Americanus (commonly known as ‘New Jersey Tea’) .
Despite this quick recovery some major issues were left unresolved, including persistent gaps in standardization and the lack of a central administrative body for managing graduate education interdepartmentally. In light of these issues, the Board of Trustees voted on July 11th 1928 to establish ‘the Graduate School’ in order to pursue inter-department central planning, guide implementation of programs, and to approve conferral of doctoral degrees [4, 7]. Beginning the following year, the authority and responsibilities of the Committee on Graduate Studies was transferred to the first graduate dean, Ernst A. Bessey [4, 8]. Bessey was chosen on the basis of his interdisciplinary training in linguistics and mycology, as well has his prior engagement with directing graduate study .
At this time renamed to Michigan State College of Agricultural and Applied Science , the school continued efforts at standardization under the leadership of the college’s twelfth president, John A. Hannah, to date the longest serving president in MSU’s history . His tenure coincided with an unprecedented level of growth both physically and in terms of enrollment. During this time, ‘The Graduate School’ was reformed two times, firstly in 1944 as the ‘School for Graduate Studies’. The second reforming of this administrative body occurred during the transition to the school’s status as a university in 1955, becoming the ‘School for Advanced Graduate Studies’ [5, 10]. As part of this change, the management of Master’s degrees was returned to individual departments and the ‘School for Advanced Graduate Studies’ became solely responsible for the management of doctoral level degrees .
Despite these changes, the 1970 ‘Report on the Future of MSU’ notes the decentralized management of graduate education as a persistent barrier in the development of the university . These concerns are echoed by several pieces in campus and local newspapers. In 1974, a piece in ‘The State News’ brought attention to the then empty graduate deanship, and outlined the intention of COGS to develop a committee focused on restructuring graduate education at MSU . A 1982 article in the Lansing State Journal raised concerns about the ‘grad drain’ in Michigan, and the Midwest more broadly, citing the increasing flow of the state’s would-be graduate students to the east and west coasts and the lack of attractive, tech focused programs at the state’s universities . In 1989, Provost David Scott formed CORRAGE, Council On the Review of Research and Graduate Education, to reconsider the structuring of graduate education and to submit recommendations for its reform . An article in the Fall 1993 issue of the ‘Graduate Post’ cites the Graduate School’s continuing reliance on ‘indirect administration’ practices in outlining the need for a restructuring of the organization and foreshadowing its re-founding the following year .
The Graduate School—in its current organizational form—was established in 1994 in response to these issues, and set out to “stimulate broader, more interdepartmental research ventures, raise the status of graduate education at Michigan State, and promote the support and preparation of graduate students as the next generation of academic professionals” . The rising status and strength of graduate education at MSU attests to their success in these matters. The Graduate School, on top of other functions, is instrumental in advocacy for graduate education and connecting graduate students to programs and resources offered at the university, including workshops, conferences, details on funding opportunities, etc .
Although no Campus Archaeology Program excavations have focused on contexts specifically associated with graduate students at MSU, this post offers some basic background information that helps to render visible the long history of graduate education at MSU, and provides reason to keep graduate students in mind as part of MSU’s student body even in excavations dating to the earliest days of the university. It also offers a chance to emphasize the role of archival research in historical archaeology, a role often understated in popular representations of archaeological methodologies. Archival research, and the painstaking work of archivists, provides archaeologists important contextual information that helps us plan for—and interpret the results of—survey and excavation projects. It also warrants mention that in addition to The Graduate School’s 25th anniversary, 2019 also boasts the 50th anniversary of the University Archives! The CAP blog is full of wonderful examples of the crucial role archival research plays in our work, including this post on the identification of a fragment of mortar as a part of a list of names written on the wall of College Hall from an archived photo, and these two posts on an archaeological survey of the Sanford Lot sugar house, in addition to many others.
 2019 Fall 2019 Enrollment Report. Submitted by Teresa A. Sullivan to the MSU Board of Trustees Policy Committee on Oct. 4th 2019.
 2019 Office of the Registrar, Academic Programs – Graduate Degrees (list). Digitally accessible here.
 1955 Kuhn, Madison. Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, MI.
 1993 Author Unknown. A Brief History of Graduate Study at Michigan State. Published in the ‘Graduate Post’, Fall 1993. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
 MSU Timeline. Published within ‘On the Banks of the Red Cedar’. Accessible online here.
 1925 Petry, Edward J. Physiological Studies on Ceanothus Americanus. Dissertation submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Ph.D. in Botany, Michigan State University. Digitally accessible here.
 1928 State Board of Agriculture, Minutes of the State Board of Agriculture, July 11th 1928. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections. Digitally accessible here.
 1929 Committee on Advanced Degrees, Creation of Deanship of Graduate School. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
 John A. Hannah (b. 1902 d. 1991). In ‘MSU Presidents Since 1857’ digital exhibit published by MSU University Archives & Historical Collections. Digitally accessible here.
 1960 Author Unknown. Graduate Education at Michigan State University. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections
 1974 Ourlian, Bob. Dean for Graduate Studies Urged. Published in ‘The State News’, January 23rd, 1974. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
 1982 Mallory, James. Experts Warn Grad Drain Hurts State. Published in the ‘Lansing State Journal’, October 10th 1982. Provided courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections.
 2019 The Graduate School. 25 Years of Leading Graduate Education at Michigan State University. Digitally accessible here.
 2019 The Graduate School. About Us. Digitally accessible here.
Last Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Campus Archaeology hosted their first Open House. For two hours, Campus Archaeology opened our lab doors to the public. Campus Archaeology strives to have a standing relationship with the community through our numerous outreach events each year, as well as …