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Anthropology interest on rise: Students working in Mitchell are part of growing program

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Anthropology interest on rise: Students working in Mitchell are part of growing program
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Having just spent nine months studying anthropology at the University of Exeter, England, Rapid City natives and Augustana College seniors Morgan Tucker and Amy Godsell are excited for what the future holds.

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They are two of 21 anthropology majors at Augustana, which, according to a press release, is up 250 percent in its anthropology student numbers from last year.

Anthropology was declared a major at the Sioux Falls institution in 2008 and, beyond the 21 students currently majoring in the program, it also has 15 students minoring in the program.

Majors spend three years on campus and one year abroad at Exeter, an internationally recognized university that was ranked No. 1 in the United Kingdom for archeology in a 2007 National Student Survey, according to a press release. The Thomsen Center Archeodome at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village serves as a field school for the Exeter students, who spend a month in Mitchell every summer.

A crew of Exeter students is currently working at the archeodome and will be there for much of this month. One of their recent finds is a flute believed to have been made around 1,000 years ago.

Godsell said teachers influenced her decision to study anthropology.

"I had a teacher in high school that really got me interested in history," Godsell said. "When I started at Augie, I was an undecided major, and I took one class from Dr. Hannus and from there, I just fell in love with it."

Dr. Hannus is Adrien Hannus, an Augustana anthropology professor who has a long history of involvement with the Indian Village.

The village's archeodome covers an open archeology dig, providing visitors year-round access. It is a 10,000-square-foot building that encloses two full lodges on its earthen floor. The site was picked with the lodges forming a perimeter, making the area that is studied the same area where people lived their day-to-day lives. A lot of the area is comprised of cache pits, or trash pits, that people used to store food, pottery and tools. The remains from those cache pits allow researchers to learn more about the people who inhabited the site 1,000 years ago.

Both Tucker and Godsell agree that their time spent at Exeter gave them a better idea of what they want to do in the future.

"Cultural research management is an area that seems like there are a lot of opportunities," Godsell said. "But we are thinking of going into the job field first before deciding what we want to specialize in."

"Anthropology is defined as the study of human beings. It is history. This allows me to actually get down into the dirt and live in history," Tucker said. "I get to uncover the past and learn about the future."

Hannus said careers in anthropology are growing, contrary to what people might believe.

"There are quite a few folks finding work across the marketplace today with corporations, for instance, who are doing international business," Hannus said. "The perspective that we bring to this (major) really informs those going to a different cultural area of the world, and what the do's and don'ts are that would put you in a better posture to be viewed favorably instead of unfavorably."

Careers in forensics, archeology and cultural relations are just a few of the broad areas of study. Especially with the attention that television media has given to forensic occupations, Hannus hopes that the program will continue to grow.

"Anthropology students are trained to discover evidence, analyze it and come to their own conclusions," Hannus said. "Ultimately, those are incredibly valuable skills that can be applied to any field in any industry."

And as for the requirement to study at Exeter, the students see that as a positive for entering the job market.

"Nothing could be better as a field to be doing a year abroad than anthropology, because you are studying other cultures," Hannus said. "We aren't studying exotic cultures by going to Britain, but it gives students a chance to study some other aspect of the world."

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