But now, Megan Moore, assistant professor of anthropology, and a group of University of Michigan students will begin to curate the collection and peek into the lifestyles of medieval Europeans.
Moore will complete her project as one of four UM-Dearborn professors chosen as teaching fellows for the Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates (GIEU).
GIEU supports University of Michigan educational and intercultural projects that take students out of the traditional classroom and into a global learning environment. The program will fund 10 projects next summer—open to students on all three U-M campuses—with UM-Dearborn faculty members leading three of those projects.
In addition to Moore, Stein Brunvand will lead a project in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Martha Adler and Monica Porter will lead a project in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Moore plans to have students help curate the skeletal collection and use the remains to compare medieval healthcare to that of modern France.
“With so much discussion on the pros and cons of universal healthcare, I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to compare the outcomes of two vastly different systems: the French universal healthcare and the system of no healthcare from the early medieval period,” Moore said.
“This also would be an amazing opportunity to impress upon the students the bounty of knowledge that can be gained about the health and lifestyles of ancient populations through bio-archaeological analysis.”
Meanwhile, more than 5,000 miles away, Brunvand and his group will establish a virtual tutoring program for students in Johannesburg. Project participants will work with a program that provides Saturday tutoring sessions for students living in extreme poverty.
“We’ll build upon the Saturday academic support they receive, helping to address educational deficiencies,” said Brunvand, assistant professor of education technology. “At the same time, our students will learn about providing online web-based instruction.”
For Brunvand, next summer is just the start of the connection he hopes to build between his students and the tutoring program. He plans to integrate the project into his undergraduate classes throughout the academic year.
Education also is front and center for Adler and Porter’s project. Their group will run a literacy camp for young children at School of Champions. The school is an outreach program of Children of the Dump, an organization set among the dump communities of Puerto Vallarta that provides food, shelter and education for area families.
“There is a strong push from the Mexican government that citizens be bilingual,” said Adler, associate professor of reading and language arts and ESL coordinator. “Preparing our students to work with non-English speakers helps them understand it’s not always easy to be a teacher. But kids can make great strides with great teachers.”
Hard labor is on the agenda as well. During the afternoons, the group will join with 1,000 other students from across the U.S. to help build homes with Children of the Dump.
With each project, faculty members recognize the benefits that come with taking students out of their comfort zone—benefits they hope will strengthen students’ resolve in the classroom and the community long after they return home.
“When you travel, something just clicks,” said Porter, assistant vice chancellor for student success. “It sparks a passion to do more, to give more of yourself to your work and to others.”