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CCU student awarded field study fellowship in Kenya

January 22, 2018
CCU student Sydney James at work excavating an archaeological site last summer.

Coastal Carolina University student Sydney James was one of three students in the United States awarded a prestigious fellowship to attend the Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya this summer.

The fellowship, funded through the National Science Foundation International Research Experience for Students program, was part of a grant received by the Koobi Fora Field School that will cover the cost of the program and her airfare to Kenya. The field school is a partnership between the National Museums of Kenya and George Washington University’s Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology.

“It’s probably one of the best sites in the world for studying some of our earliest hominin ancestors,” said James, a sophomore anthropology and geography major from Seaford, Del.

Not only will James be studying artifacts that are several millions of years old, but she will also be learning about how those early ancestors used and interacted with their landscape.

“I cannot stress enough how competitive this fellowship is,” said Carolyn Dillian, chair of CCU’s Department of Anthropology and Geography. “It’s an amazing achievement for Sydney to have been selected, and I’m excited for her to have this field school experience in Kenya this summer.”

The fellowship is an intensive 10-week program consisting of four weeks of online classes and six weeks of field research. After the Fellows return to the states, they will hold a conference in November to discuss their findings.

More than 30 candidates from across the country applied for the fellowship, and the Koobi Fora Field School accepted only three.

In 2015, the Koobi Fora Research and Training Program began running the fellowship program to provide training and support for students interested in developing skills to use in a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) sciences. The fellowship program focuses on supporting students with excellent academic backgrounds so they can use their experience on the Koobi Fora Field School to further explore aspects of our lineage’s past.

While James hopes to study abroad again for her master’s degree, she says she can’t wait to conduct research in Kenya.

“It’s such a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said James.