Winners of the ‘Best Project in Anthropology’, Calendar Year 2020
Each year, the Department of Anthropology recognizes the best projects submitted by undergraduate students for a class or a capstone. Projects are nominated by faculty members teaching the course or advising the capstone project, and evaluated by the Undergraduate Committee. Winners each receive a $50 cash prize.
Please join us in congratulating the following students for exceptionally well-researched, well-written, and creative projects submitted for a course or capstone during the 2020 calendar year!
Robert F. Spencer Prize in Sociocultural Anthropology for 2020 Independent Capstone Project Paper: "Remember and Know Them: A Discourse Analysis of the Representational Politics Implicated in Perpetuating Settler Colonial Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls in the Upper Midwest"
Zetta Mason’s Capstone Project advisor, Dr. Kat Hayes, wrote about Zetta’s project: “Ms. Mason has conducted outstanding research in media representations of MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls), showing clear patterns distinguishing mainstream from tribal media. This research is thoroughly contextualized in scholarly and legal literatures, and synthesizes an impressive and clear argument with implications for tribal sovereignty.”
Zetta Mason graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in May 2020 with a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.S. in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance with an emphasis in Policy Analysis. While attending the U she also ran for the Cross Country and Track Teams and became passionate about advocating for the end of sexual assault and relationship violence. Zetta was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study domestic violence response in Albania and will be beginning her long-awaited grant in the Fall of 2021. After completing her Fulbright, Zetta plans to attend law school.
Neil C. Tappen Prize in Biological Anthropology for 2020
Independent Capstone Project Paper: "Female Dominance Relationships Predict Assisted Birth in Humans and Other Primates"
Kasey Schleper’s Capstone Project advisor, Dr. Mike Wilson, wrote about Kasey’s project: “Ms. Schleper undertook an ambitious exploration of the question: ‘Why do humans require assistance during birth?’ She adopted a comparative approach, examining the contexts of birth in other primates, and found that while a majority of observed births in wild primates take place in isolation, in some species, females give birth in a social context, and sometimes receive assistance from other group members. She found that the best predictor of such assistance was female social relations: in species with more egalitarian dominance relations, females were more likely to give birth in a social setting and receive assistance from other females. This suggests that evolution of difficult birth resulted not just from having big-brained babies and hips constrained by the needs of bipedal locomotion, but also from having a social context in which females supported rather than threatened one another. Kasey's writing is mature and polished, and she digs deep into the literature, searching for the original sources, rather than being content with secondhand reports. Her paper is one of the very best undergraduate papers I have read.”
Kasey graduated from the University of Minnesota in spring 2020. During her undergraduate studies, she took several courses in anthropology and Spanish that stimulated her interest in both primatology and linguistics. She is currently working as a field assistant studying white-faced capuchin monkeys at the Lomas Barbudal Monkey Project in Costa Rica. In the future, she plans on pursuing her interest in primatology in graduate school, and would love to continue doing field research.
Elden Johnson Prize in Archaeology for 2020
Project submitted for ANTH 5237W: Inka, Aztec and Maya Civilizations, in Fall 2020: “Poem for the Massacre at the Fiesta of Toxcatl”
The professor for ANTH 5237, Dr. Steve Kosiba, wrote about Sailer’s project: “The assignment was to write an account of the Spanish invasion of Mexico from a native perspective. The students could write an essay that took a "bottom up" historiographic perspective, or they could try something more creative. Sailer submitted something absolutely wonderful -- a rendering of a central event of the invasion, not only told from the perspective of a Mexica person, but also fitting the style of Aztec poetry. We had read some Aztec poetry in class, but we did not study it in detail, besides selections from the text called "Broken Spears." Sailer did this on their own. My mind was blown.”
Sailer is currently a sophomore working for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and a toy store in their hometown. They like Shirley Jackson novels, language learning, Dungeons & Dragons, and Halloween. Next year, Sailer is looking forward to continuing their studies in anthropology and their work with CHGS.