As we enjoyed coffee at our weekly community coffee hour, I asked Dr. Bob Kelly what he was most looking forward to in retirement. Without hesitation, he said: No more term papers.
I know many students who face term papers with similar apprehension. Five pages, okay, but 10? 20? Why are my professors making me do this? They won't even read them. (Bob Kelly is perhaps the exception to the rule.)
So why do we do term papers? Professors don't like them, students despise them. Certainly, writing a long form paper is great practice for getting your head around a big problem and trying to keep focused on it for a few thousand words.
The field of archaeology isn't really known for solo-authored papers though, and few term papers are anywhere near publication-ready. So why not try something else?
This semester, to avoid the term paper fiasco, I teamed up with one of our awesome PhD students at UW, Charles Koenig. We had been dreaming about adding a poster printer to our arsenal of departmental equipment, and could think of no better way to decorate the sterile walls of the Anthropology building with student posters.
For our spring 2022 courses, GIS in Anthropology and Introduction to Anthropology Research Methods, we assigned students final posters instead of final papers. This required our students to come up with original research topics, pitch them, and then actually do some original research all in one semester. No easy feat!
I knew our students would have no problem. UW students are a gritty, determined bunch with a whole lot of curiosity to boot. We had some fabulous posters, from research on historic red light districts to rural access to hospitals. We held the poster session in honor of our late department secretary, Keith Kanbe, on the same day that we dedicated our building to George Frison. It was a fabulous way to end the school year and gave me a whole lot to smile about on my plane ride to Alaska today.
Bree is an Alaskan Archaeologist and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming.