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Anthropologist co-edits book on service learning

July 24, 2009

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University anthropologist has co-edited a book that showcases the mutual contributions of archaeology and community service learning.

Dr. Michael S. Nassaney, WMU professor of anthropology, co-edited "Archaeology and Community Service Learning" with Mary Ann Levine, associate professor of anthropology at Franklin & Marshall College. The work was co-published in June by the University Press of Florida and Society for Historical Archaeology.

"The service-learning approach in archaeology is a relatively new way of teaching and practicing the discipline," the editors say. "It arose partly in response to changes in the field that have made archaeology increasingly public. Service-learning brings students into closer contact with the public so they can benefit from the wider audiences that share an interest in archaeology."

The 250-page book examines how the discipline can successfully incorporate community service learning, or CSL, to broaden and enhance learning opportunities for students, promote civic engagement and embrace community partnerships. In discussing specific examples from work in historical archaeology, researchers contributing chapters to the monograph highlight the achievements and challenges that archaeologists as well as their students face in the classroom and the field when collaborating with a variety of community partners.

The chapters, including one written by Nassaney, reinforce the editors' contention that CSL can contribute to what they contend is a needed reform in the way U.S. academics teach archaeology, which has long emphasized a practical, field-based approach to training new scholars.

Both Nassaney and Levine actively integrate such service learning into their research, and view it as a natural outgrowth of developments in archaeology that have been happening since the 1970s. In fact, Nassaney directs the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project as well as WMU's annual Archaeological Field School, which in 2002 led to the discovery of fort near Niles, Mich.

Fort St. Joseph, located in a strategic setting along the St. Joseph River, was one of the most important 18th-century outposts in the entire Western Great Lakes region. With much more of the site to be surveyed and excavated, this settlement on the edge of the French empire has become the location for the University's annual Archaeological Field School.

This year's field school will include weeklong sessions from July 13-17 for middle school students, July 20-24 for educators and July 27-31 for other interested adults. An August 1-2 public open house also is scheduled at the site.

The school's work is being done under the auspices of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project in partnership with the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort Inc. and the city of Niles. From the beginning, area students, teachers and residents have joined with WMU researchers and students to investigate and interpret the thousands of archaeological artifacts that have been uncovered at the site.

Nassaney, who came to WMU in 1992, focuses his research on archaeological theory and method, political economy, ethnohistory, colonialism, regional analysis, material analysis and critical theory.

In addition to his University and Fort St. Joseph duties, he serves as secretary for the Society for Historical Archaeology, one of the world's largest scholarly groups of archaeologists; edits a University Press of Florida book series called "The American Experience in Archaeological Perspective"; and edits Le Journal, the quarterly publication of the Center for French Colonial Studies.

"Archaeology and Community Service Learning" is available at University Press of Florida online as well as from booksellers such as amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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