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2004 - Bonnie Glass-Coffin

Anthropology professor Bonnie Glass-Coffin takes her students out of the classroom - way out of the classroom. She developed an international ethnographic field school in Huanchaco, Peru, and recruited an adventurous band of students for the five-week cultural immersion.

Bonnie Glass-Coffin

"The experiences that Bonnie gives her undergraduate students parallel the kinds of experiences one would expect in graduate studies," said Gary Kiger, dean of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. "Bonnie stretches the definition of academic engagement to new levels, taking learning from the classroom to a remote Peruvian fishing village where students learn 24/7," he said.

In Peru, students discover the impacts of economic, social and cultural change, according to Glass-Coffin. They interview locals, create cognitive maps, observe local rituals and take part in traditional celebrations.

Student Elizabeth Cox said of her five weeks in Peru, "I learned more about anthropology and myself than in my previous three years of undergraduate work."

The experience also enriches the life of the villagers.

"As a result of this study, the quality of life of our people has changed," said Abel Gurbillon, managing director of the Latin American Center of Science and Technology in Huanchaco, Peru. "The student papers serve to re-value our customs and our lives."

In the classroom, Glass-Coffin guides students as they develop and share presentations akin to presentations at professional meetings, Kiger said. Students also create museum exhibits that reflect their ethnographic fieldwork. The displays are part of the rotating exhibits at the Museum of Anthropology on campus, where they are viewed by hundreds of public school students. A dozen students have parlayed their in-depth field projects into papers that have been presented at professional meetings and conferences.

Student Corey Tyler Larsen said Glass-Coffin empowers students. "She invites students to be passionate about their field work," he said. "At the time I took her class I wasn't even sure what anthropology was. Bonnie challenged the class to think about life from a different perspective. She never took sides on issues. She respected everyone's point of view."

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Ethnographic Field School