Academics and Research / News

Clark named scholar-teacher of the year

Bonnie Clark has been named 2010-11 United Methodist Scholar/Teacher of the Year. Photo: April Kamp-Whittaker

When Bonnie Clark started her career in anthropology, gender roles in archaeology were still a bit like those of the 1950s. It was common for men to go into the field to collect artifacts while women processed them back in the laboratory.

Clark not only has been in the field, but has done groundbreaking work in the field. For that and many reasons, her colleagues say she’s a true pioneer.

“Bonnie is the best field archaeologist I’ve ever seen,” says Dean Saitta, professor and chair of DU’s Department of Anthropology. “If I could only take one person into the field with me, I’d choose Bonnie over everyone else I know.”

Saitta has been Clark’s colleague since she was hired in 2003. But he was also her professor when she was working on her master’s degree in anthropology at DU. After graduating with an MA in 1996, she earned a PhD at the University of California-Berkeley.

“We are lucky to have her here,” Saitta says. “[Clark’s] led the charge to put historical archaeology in the West on the map, and is deeply dedicated to developing a community-engaged practice.”

She’s done that partly through her work at Amache, the Japanese-American World War II internment camp in eastern Colorado.

“The project is resonating widely with a generation of Japanese-Americans whose earliest memories of America were forged in a cauldron of suspicion and hate,” Saitta says.

The project has been completely collaborative. Former internees have traveled to be part of her field camp. Local high school students experienced museum design and excavation. Graduate students have based thesis papers on the project. And Clark’s taken all of it back to enrich her classroom.

“I love my job,” she says. “One of my favorite things is that I find out new things each day and bring them into the classroom.”

Clark was April Kamp-Whittaker’s (MA ’10) adviser for her anthropology thesis. Kamp-Whittaker says Clark’s generosity during field camps allowed graduate students to collect data for their own projects.

“She really encourages us to create our own interest in the project,” Kamp-Whittaker says. “She’s found an ability to make everything a learning experience for her students.”

Clark’s undergraduate students share that affinity toward her.

Senior Margaret Miller took a field class from Clark and describes her as the most approachable yet demanding professor she’s had.

“She is so available to her students and so dedicated to each individual student,” Miller says. “I worked really hard and feel I learned so much from being in her class.”

Clark excels in the classroom, out in the field, in her scholarship and with the community. For all these reasons, Clark received the 2010–11 United Methodist Church University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award.

She says the award has special significance to her since the United Methodist Church has helped open the doors for Japanese-Americans from the earliest days of Japanese immigration to the United States.

“They were spearheading social justice efforts for a long time,” she says. “I feel honored and humbled to be part of that tradition.”

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