Archaeology in Laxyuup Gitxaała: Connecting with Community through Teaching

I went to my first North West Anthropological Conference today and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I only participated for one of the conference’s three days of programming, but it was well worth it.  However, before heading over to the conference I did a slow and easy 6km run along the Fairhaven to Bellingham waterfront on a fabulous running trail (see route details at bottom of post).

Most of the papers that I watched were on wet site archaeology.  Informative and engaging.  In the session that my paper was in there were two herring papers and one on clam gardens: all quite informative.  My own paper focused on the archaeological work that we have been doing through the Gitxaała Environmental Monitoring office for about five years now.  My primary focus of this paper was on community engagement through teaching and learning.

ABSTRACT:  Since 2009 Gitxaala Nation and UBC have been involved in a collaborative archaeology and traditional knowledge research project.  This project builds upon a long standing socio-cultural research collaboration.  As part of the project, which involves documenting Gitxaala village sites not previously recorded or describe in the archaeological literature, project team members have engaged community youth through hands on applications of research techniques.  This presentation documents the nature of the engaging, highlights some of our research results, and explores the importance of making connections with youth and community members as a driving force in new archaeological investigations. 

[PDF of the powerpoint presentation.  Photo credits: John Irons and Charles Menzies]


From Microsoft: Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship is usually defined as the “norms of behavior with regard to technology use.” It encompasses digital literacy, ethics, etiquette, online safety, norms, rights, culture and more. Microsoft recognizes that good digital citizenship, when you use computers, gaming consoles, or mobile devices, promotes a safer online environment for all.

The visual whitepaper, “Fostering Digital Citizenship,” discusses why digital citizenship matters and outlines the education young people need as they explore, learn, and essentially “grow-up” online. This paper also addresses the three types of risks you might encounter in online activities: Content, Contact, and Conduct.

Managing your online behavior and monitoring your reputation are important elements of good digital citizenship. Microsoft recently surveyed teen and parental attitudes, awareness of, and behaviors toward managing their online reputations.

  • Teens share considerably more information online than their parents and, as a result, expose themselves to more risk; they also feel more in control of their online reputations.
  • Teens believe the benefits of sharing information online outweigh the risks, with the exception of sharing a physical location.
  • Teens and parents worry about different things. Teens are most concerned about getting into college (57%), landing a job (52%,) and being embarrassed (42%). Parents worry about fraud (54%), being embarrassed (51%,) and career (43%).

The encouraging results suggest that American parents and teens are actively managing their online reputations—and with an eye toward good digital citizenship.

Read more here.


The Bittersweet Truth of Award Adjudication

One of the hardest things to take as a student and an academic (forget that – for all of us) is the bitter taste of rejection and denial.  It’s hard to hand out rejections too, but receiving them is way harder.  We all know that.  It’s part of the price that is paid for supporting and being part of the neo-liberal market economy where competition and excellence rule the day (you can find my critique of the university of excellence online in New Proposals)

Recently I read a comment about how a student found the process of fellowship award adjudication unfair.  I appreciate that feeling.  It was sincere and heartfelt. Oh, and yes, I do sometimes read what students post online – it’s a public place- I don’t go looking for these things, but it is amazing what one stumbles across on a causal jaunt through the blogosphere.   That said, I think that some of the conclusions and information that the student had been provided with aren’t quite accurate. 

The student’s concern was over what they had been told about the granting process and the likely outcome of this process.  Then, to make matters worse, the explanation for why their file didn’t actually get sent up to the next level of decision making was even more innervating!

You should know that over the course of a couple of decades I have sat on local, national, and international adjudication panels for graduate students and faculty.  I was a member of the doctoral fellowship national adjudication panel in Canada for about 6 years and even chaired the committee one year.  I’ve also reviewed faculty grant applications (as both a member of adjudication committees and a peer reviewer on behalf of granting agencies) for a range of national and international grant awards.

So here’s my gloss on the local process for grant awards . 

The faculty of graduate studies gives each department a quota of how many applications for each award that can be sent forward to the university-level selection committee.  This quota will vary from year to year, but this year (for example) the department in question was only allocated one space for international student applications for affiliated awards and eight spaces for Domestic & Permanent Resident applications to  SSHRC MA fellowships.  Departments have nothing to do with setting the quota.

The selection process involves each member of the departmental committee individually ranking all applicant files.  We are provided with clear criteria (as are students when they fill out the forms) for assessing each file. I personally create a quantitative rubric that includes research proposal, student record (i.e. publications, presentations, employment history, and consider that relative to stage of career), reference letters, and transcripts.  I personally tally up those scores and then rank applicant files accordingly. Other committee members may have different approaches, but we are all expected to follow the criteria set by the granting agency and/or UBC (as the case determines).  Then the rankings from each individual committee member is combined and tallied up to created an overall ranked list of applications.  The outcome thus involves  a combination of factors and no one factor can be singled out as ‘the’ main factor.

[Note, I am very deliberately saying applications, files, etc.  These are rankings of the FILES, not the STUDENTS.  Semantic point?  I don’t think so.  To be fair and honest rankings should look only at the material in the files that we are provided with.  That’s the application, that’s the data we have to work with.]

The SSHRCC MA fellowship applications are considered separately from the MA affiliated award applications and are not compared against each other. The department in question had 20+ applications for the SSHRCC. Our quota to send up to the university level committee was 8. Perhaps 2/3 of those will ultimately be funded. The Affiliated pool was much smaller and only 1 space was allocated to be sent up. Only when there are cases in which the number of applicants equal the quota set by the university would all applicants be sent up.

I also know that no amount of explanation or empathy will make a difference as to how one might feel about the outcome.  Say what one might, rejection is always a bitter pill to swallow.