The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Anthropology students receive NSF fellowships

Both of SMU’s new National Science Foundation fellows are working to narrow the gaps between science, the past and the people. Two SMU anthropology doctoral students, Michelle Rich and Catrina Whitely, received three-year research fellowships from the National Science Foundation to study anthropology.

The NSF fellowships will carry a stipend of $21,000 per year and cover the full tuition cost at SMU.

Whitely, who received the SMU Departmental Distinction Award for Anthropology in 2000, is currently working on her dissertation in archaeology, under the direction of professor Michael Adler. She is concentrating on human skeletal remains and burial practices in the Southwest. Her dissertation work, focused on the Rio Grande, is in the Southwest, studying the period of 900-1350 and the Pueblo Indians of northern New Mexico.

“I am working on trying to find ways to bring the Native Americans connection and archaeology together,” Whitely said.

Rich is working with Professor David Friedel at the “El Peru” site in north central Guatemala. Waka, the ancient Maya name, is in a Maya Biosphere Reserve. One goal of her work is to maintain the reserve’s jungle like atmosphere while making the archaeology of the area accessible.

“The site is not accessible unless you’re a real hard core outdoor type,” Rich said, “and there is not a lot know about the site.”

Both attributed their success to their own endeavor and to the anthropology faculty at SMU.

“It validates and raises the value of my education and puts support and faith in the research I do. I have high regard in the education I have received at this university,” Whitely said. “Also it shows the respect and value for this department.”

NSF Graduate Fellowships provide three years of support for advanced study to approximately 900 outstanding graduate students in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, and behavioral and social sciences, including the history of science and the philosophy of science, and to research-based Ph.D. degrees in science education. This year there were more than 6,000 applicants for the 900 fellowships.

There are three NSF fellows at SMU, and all are in the anthropology department. This speaks to the caliber of the students coming to the department and to the quality of the faculty.

“The university might do well to maintain the status of this program,” Rich said, “and replace retiring faculty with others of the same character and academic achievement.”

Thoroughly surprised with their NSF awards both had applied twice.

The first attempt both received honorable mention.

“With so many applicants it was a shot in the dark,” Whitely said, “You never know, it was important to me, so I applied again and got it.”

“It’s a significant achievement, I was stunned,” Rich said. “I’ve been doing this since 1992 and this makes me feel like the work I’ve done is coalescing and has become more focused.”

Within a few years her focused research will provide more information and access benefiting local students and foreign archaeologists alike.

Whitely hopes to expand to analogies of desert cultures comparative to the Southwest, but is focusing on the Southwest right now.

Said Whitely: “There is a huge bone of contention whether we should be allowed to excavate the bodies. We need some kind of solution and find a happy medium that will allow archaeologists to do the research that needs to be done and take into consideration the religious and community concerns of the Native Americans.”

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