Monday, June 18, 2012

Get your applications ready!

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s NSF-REU
Ethnoarchaeology Fieldschool In the Fiji Islands, South Pacific

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is now accepting applications from undergraduates for the 2012-2013 archaeological field school in the Lau Islands, Fiji. 

Students will have the opportunity to learn about ethnoarchaeology and methods of participation observation. Additionally, all students will make a meaningful contribution to the understanding the lifeways of Fijian peoples, and experience another culture.  

We will accept between 6-9 undergraduate students from all majors and of any level (freshman-senior), for the 2012-2013 fieldschool who will receive funding to cover plane fare, living expenses, and each will be provided a generous stipend for completing this 9-week experience (it will either take place in December 2012-January 2013 or June-July, 2013). 

The process is competitive and in 2010 we had over 100 applicants for only 9 REU Fellowship positions. We are interested in recruiting students from all backgrounds; it is not necessary to have had prior anthropological experience to apply.  Specific instructions regarding the application process are provided below.  Completed applications and any questions should be sent to Dr. Sharyn Jones, Recruiting will begin immediately.

For information on the NSF REU Fiji program in the past, visit:

FAQS for Students:
What is an REU?
The National Science Foundation has developed an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) grant competition that provides funding to universities that create opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to participate in "hands-on" scientific research.  Our REU involves anthropological research in archaeology and cultural anthropology in Fiji. UAB anthropologists, Dr. Jones and Dr. Cormier, are the program leaders for this grant that will provide funds for students to participate in a field school based in Fiji. 

Do I have to be a UAB Anthropology Student to Participate in the Field School?
No.  The NSF-REU is administered through UAB, but undergraduate students enrolled in any U.S. college or university are eligible to apply. Previous coursework in anthropology is not a requirement for acceptance to the program, but experience in anthropology courses and/or expression of a clear interest in studying anthropology, the past, and diverse cultures is an asset.

How will students be selected?
We will select students based on a combination of factors. Students will need to provide academic transcripts, but GPA is not the most important factor—we are looking for hardworking, adaptable, and creative individuals who are eager to gain a hands-on experience in science and to learn about a foreign culture. It is essential for students to put aside their American-ness in order to engage in effective participant observation and learn about Fijian culture and the ethnographic process while in the field.   

Can I Receive Course Credit?
Yes.  Students who would like to receive course credit for their participation in the field school have the option of enrolling in up to 6 credits of coursework through UAB’s Anthropology Department.

How Long is the Field School?
Nine weeks. The Fieldschool will begin with a one-week orientation to the research program and Fijian culture history (at UAB), followed by six weeks of research in Fiji, and finally, two weeks of laboratory work, analysis, interpretation, and public presentations of the projects in the Birmingham area. Students will begin the program at UAB, travel to Fiji as a group and then return to UAB to complete the course and their individual research projects. Past projects have run from June-July, and include 9 weeks in total.

What Are the Living Conditions Like in Fiji?
The living and working conditions in Fiji will be like “camp” conditions.  We will be sleeping next to each other in extremely close quarters with virtually NO privacy. Accommodations will include huts, tents, or concrete buildings and will NOT have access to electricity, running water, formal showers, telephones, or the internet.  It is important that students who apply for the program fully understand that they must be in mental and physical condition for 5 weeks of camping-like conditions and working in the hot climate of Fiji. Once the team arrives at our research destination there will be no opportunities to leave the island early, except in emergency medical situations.

What Will Students Do Each Day in Fiji?
Students will be trained in standard anthropological field methods while in the field. Everyone will work together to conduct research in the village we stay in. Students will be instructed in ethnographic techniques and the skills required to study in this intimate community setting. Participant observation will include engaging in everyday village and household activities, including cooking, cleaning, collecting fire-wood, feeding livestock, fishing, and other mundane domestic tasks. Ethnoarchaeological techniques will also be learned. Some material and data will be analyzed in a laboratory at UAB. Students will be taught to record scientific data, keep field journals, make blogs and web-based media, and analyze data.  

What Will Students Do After the Fieldwork in Fiji?
Every student will take part in post-field laboratory and other work at UAB after the fieldwork in Fiji. Students will also participate in public outreach activities and do research projects based on their field experiences. This part of the course will last two weeks and in the past it has taken place during the end of July. Students are expected to make public and academic presentations of their field research. NSF-REU Fiji Archaeological Fieldschool Application

Student Recruitment and Selection
Completed applications should be sent by regular mail to Dr. Sharyn Jones at the address below. Please email Dr. Jones at:, if you have any questions about the field school or application process.  Below is a list of the materials you will need to provide by the due date in 2012 (TBA):

1. Please fill out the attached cover letter with the requested information, answering all the questions.

2. A 2-page Personal Narrative. This narrative or biography should give a picture of yourself as an individual. It should describe: 1. The experiences you feel are important to your personal history, such as family background and/or other relevant influences on your personal development. 2. The educational and cultural opportunities (or lack of them) to which you have been exposed.  3. The ways in which these experiences have affected you. 4. Also include your special interests and abilities, career plans, life goals and how this REU experience will help you meet these goals. 5. Please describe whether or not you have had any prior opportunities for research experience or exposure to anthropology. 6. Your interests in living in a foreign culture and how you see yourself adapting to that experience. 
7. It is important that you explain clearly your understanding that we will be living in tight quarters, engaging in difficult work with extreme working conditions. You need to be mentally and physically ready. Since we will be working in the hot tropics you should also communicate to us that you will be physically able to participate in the field school. We want all applicants to be aware that the accommodations for this program will be camping-based; there will be no flush toilets, all participants will sleep in small concrete buildings or thatch huts on the ground and there will be no electricity, running water, formal showers, telephones, or internet access. Once the team arrives at our research destination there will be no opportunities to leave the island early, except in emergency medical situations.

3.  Academic transcripts (we will accept unofficial transcripts for application purposes, but official transcripts may be requested from all accepted applicants).  

4. Two letters of recommendation from at least one should be from a teacher or professor who knows you well. The letters should address the applicant’s aptitude for this particular research project, and strengths that the applicant could potentially bring to the project.

5. We will interview all students before acceptance for this program.

6. Students who are accepted to the program will have to option to enroll in the a series of UAB Anthropology course for 1-6 hours of credit total, in the past we have offered: ANTH 406 (Archaeology of the Pacific Islands), ANTH 415 (Ethnographic Fieldschool), ANTH 411 (Advanced Field Archaeology), ANTH 492 (Special Problems in Archaeology).

Please direct any questions you may have to

Final Applications are due [date: TBA] and should be mailed to:
Dr. Sharyn Jones
Department of Anthropology
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Heritage Hall, Rm. # 315
Birmingham, AL 35294

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