Scholarship program wins archaeology society's president's award

Diane Gifford-Gonzalez
Professor of Anthropology Diane Gifford-Gonzalez

A scarcity of archaeologists from historically underrepresented ethnic groups has prompted UC Santa Cruz anthropology professor Diane Gifford-Gonzalez to help create a scholarship program to bring more young practitioners into the field.

Gifford-Gonzalez chairs the Minority Scholarships Committee (MSC) of the Society for American Archaeology. She and co-author Anna S. Agbe-Davies of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, outlined the mission of the scholarship fund in the November SAA Archaeological Record. The Historically Underrepresented Groups Scholarship program is modeled after the successful Native American Scholarships Fund that for nearly 20 years has helped bring more Native American and Native Canadian scholars into anthropology and archaeology.

For her work, Gifford-Gonzalez is slated to receive the SAA President's Recognition Award Tuesday, April 5, when the society holds its 78th annual meeting in Honolulu.

The scholarship fund is one of several tactics to recruit a broader segment of society into archaeology, Gifford-Gonzalez and Agbe-Davies write. Success will mean a more diverse group of researchers who can contribute to the practice of archaeology in the Americas.

"Greater diversity among practicing archaeologists … not only enriches the discipline's intellectual life, but also facilitates outreach to a broader range of communities and legislative bodies in the years to come," Gifford-Gonzalez and Agbe-Davies write.

Scholarships would cover tuition, books, and supplies, but also, more importantly, field courses typically taken in summer. Gifford-Gonzalez explained that summer field school scholarships for college-age students from underrepresented groups are vitally important because archaeological field training is "an unofficial prerequisite for entry into graduate programs and entry-level public archaeology jobs."

Few college financial aid packages cover summer coursework and underrepresented students, frequently the first in their families to attend college, often must work during the summer, making archaeological field schools nearly impossible.

Gifford-Gonzalez joined UCSC in 1976. Her research interests include zooarchaeology, African archaeology, pastoralism, colonial New Mexico, and Holocene Monterey Bay historical ecology. She is curator for the Monterey Bay Archaeology Archives and has done fieldwork in California, Nevada, and New Mexico, the Netherlands, Kenya, and Tanzania.

HUG Scholarships are funded by donations from SAA members, book royalty donations, and giving from the general public. The scholarship committee continues to pursue donations from philanthropic organizations and foundations.