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Professor wins Archaeology Award

by Katherine Fernandez - Copy Editor
Thu, Feb 7th 2019 01:50 pm

When people think of archaeology, they usually think of old artifacts, dinosaurs or Indiana Jones. When students at The College at Brockport think of archaeology, many think of Jennifer Ramsay, Ph.D. 

The Archaeological Institute of America has recently presented Ramsay with their Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award at a ceremony in San Diego, California this past January. For Ramsay, providing her students with opportunities to further their careers in anthropology is rewarding enough and she cherishes the time she has spent with each of them. Not only does she try to foster a positive and open learning environment in the classroom, she also encourages her students to seek out ways to develop their skills outside of the classroom and gain fieldwork experience. As the director of the anthropological field school in Petra, Jordan, Ramsay impacts her students lives over the course of one summer.

“When I take students to Jordan and Israel there are always great memories, but some that stand out are when I sit next to a student on their very first airplane trip,” Ramsay said. “I am thrilled to be able to be there with them as they leave their comfort zone and their world starts to expand. I know they will be embarking on a new adventure and will never be the same.”

In Jordan, Ramsay takes students to the deserts of Wadi Rumm to ride camels and camp in Bedouin tents, in addition to their regular excavation activities. 

“It is so wonderful to be with them for all of these new experiences and to know that I had a small hand in helping them get there,” Ramsay said.

Ramsay specializes in archaeobotany, or studying plant remains to get a peek at the rich history of past cultures that to most are long forgotten. Many of her students develop an interest in archaeobotany as well and work with her in the lab on campus. The lab becomes a second home for these students and many find that being in the lab puts them in their element. 

“Over the years I have had several students who have worked with me in the lab find a passion in what I have been teaching them, so much so that they go on to graduate school to continue their studies in the field,” Ramsay said. “Right now I have one student who I am working with that told me that the only place he feels contented, relaxed and at home is in the lab and we are currently working on getting him into a graduate program so he can continue to follow his passion.”

To ensure that her students get the most out of their undergraduate studies, Ramsay has renovated the institution’s anthropology lab and established a Public History Minor and a Museum Studies Minor in the anthropology department.

Michelle Heeman, a Brockport alumnae, credits much of her success in the field to the years she spent working side by side with Ramsay both in the lab and internationally. 

“I learned so much from Ramsay,” Heeman said. “The summers I spent in Petra have given me invaluable field experience and enough beautiful memories to last a lifetime.”

Heeman also attributes the internship opportunities she was offered to the Minors programs that Ramsay implemented, saying that her love for history has always drawn her towards museum work but the Museum Studies minor helped her make her dreams a reality.

Ramsay thinks back to her time as a student to help her understand and accommodate the needs and wants of her mentees. 

“For me, as a student the classes that inspired me were the ones where the professor challenged me to become more engaged in learning, which in turn fueled my insatiable curiosity for life and I am thrilled to be able to pass this along.” Ramsay said.

Although Ramsay looks back fondly at her nearly decade long career as a professor at The College at Brockport, she can’t wait to see what the future holds for her and her students. 

“It has been a great privilege to have been able to work with so many talented, hardworking and wonderful students over the years,” Ramsay said. “Their support of me for this award was incredible, the things that they wrote were moving and I certainly would not be where I am today without them. I am very much looking forward to what the future has in store.”

Maybe one day, one of her protégés will find themselves being presented with the same award and pass on the love and dedication Ramsay has shown her students.