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Anthropology minor bringing robust student opportunity

Museum studies
Students work at an excavation site at Yahoola High Trestle under the direction of Dr. William Balco.

Faculty at the University of North Georgia (UNG) have been hard at work establishing an anthropology minor for students since 2014, and the program is now in full swing.

"Anthropology is important because it's impossible not to interact with other cultures," said Jessica Stehlin, a junior majoring in environmental spatial analysis. "As the world becomes increasingly globalized, we interact with different cultures on a daily basis. Anthropology exposes us to the diversity of human experiences, and gives us a way to study these differences between people."

Anthropology Professor Dr. Pam Sezgin wrote the proposal for the project with her department head and dean. The proposal was developed more than two years before any classes were offered, and went through a rigorous approval process within Academic Affairs.

"One of the major issues right now is getting the word out to students so they know that they can minor in anthropology for their bachelor's degree programs in other fields," Sezgin said. "Anthropology provides the foundation for a variety of careers. Anthropologists work in business, research, teaching, advocacy, public service and museums."

The program offers upper-level classes such as Anthropology of the Middle East, Museum Studies, Anthropology of Food, Biblical Archaeology and Battlefield Archaeology. The minor is available on both the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses.

According to Dr. Jeff Pardue, history professor and department head, the minor has grown to include 18 students – up from the four students in the program two years prior. Pardue said the most recent growth has occurred on the Dahlonega Campus, where the Department of History, Anthropology and Philosophy recently hired a full-time, tenure-track anthropologist, Dr. William Balco, this past fall. He joins Dr. Steve Nicklas on the Gainesville Campus and Sezgin on the Oconee Campus, who teaches courses for the minor on the Gainesville Campus.

Balco, who helps organize field experiences and original study for students, explains that the program's students are currently working on several local archaeological excavation projects in both Lumpkin and Hall Counties. Students are currently working on the Yahoola High Trestle, a bridge constructed to transport water to hydraulic mining operations during Dahlonega's gold rush period, as well as some archaeological testing at the Adams Site, a newly discovered prehistoric site in the county, and at the Head's/Healan's Mill Site as part of a partnership with the Head's/Healan's Mill Restoration Citizens Advisory Committee.

"These projects have involved the participation of 45 UNG students in addition to students from Kennesaw State University and North Georgia Technical College," Balco said. "Students have recovered a wide variety of artifacts from these historic-period sites. Three students presented their research at the Yahoola High Trestle site during UNG's Annual Research Conference, and this summer, I will be taking six UNG students to western Sicily to conduct archaeological investigation in the territory of Alcamo."

Excavations at the Trestle, Mill, Adam's Site and others will continue this spring semester and into the fall.  

Nicklas also offers a summer paleontological class out West where students learn the field methods of excavating dinosaur bones.

For more information, visit the Department of History, Anthropology, and Philosophy's website.

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