Team Conducts Archaeological Dig on Campus

Student and professor excavate the Tanyard House

Jasmine Koehn ’09, already learned as a freshman how exciting a research program could be. “I love it. It’s so cool,” says Koehn. “I have great access to the professors, and I’m really into history so it’s really cool to get to handle artifacts.”

Koehn, from Greeley, CO, is one of the student scholars in the College’s new Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, known as URAP. Faculty members are matched with a URAP freshman to assist with the faculty member’s research. The student researcher receives a stipend of $1,000 per semester and works approximately 10 hours a week. The research positions are renewable for up to four years. Eight to ten first year students are selected for the program each year.

Koehn has been working with Dr. Whitney Leeson, associate professor of history and anthropology, on the excavation of the Tanyard House in Salem. The house dates back to 1852 and, as a frame structure, is an example of vernacular architecture. The house is one of the oldest in Salem and would provide insight into the lower socioeconomics of that time period.

During the time she has been involved in this project, Koehn has been focusing on the lab work needed to analyze the artifacts. She has developed a cataloging system and will be building a display area in West Hall. In addition, she has given several presentations detailing her work.

The lab work is viewed as a “critical area” in archaeology, and for every hour in the field approximately 10 hours of lab work are generated. Leeson sees this lab work as a vital stage in Koehn’s undergraduate research experience. The background Koehn is gaining will be applicable in many different fields and is unlike what she would obtain in class.

Dr. Benjamin Huddle, professor of chemistry, is the faculty member who oversees the URAP program. “We meet together as a group—faculty mentors and URAP scholars—about once a month,” Huddle says. “We talk about each project, what’s going well and what problems are being worked on. A small, mutually-supportive community of scholars discussing intellectual activities has developed,” he says. “These are freshman modeling the behavior of graduate students.”