Previous Excellence Winners | Anthropology | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

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Previous Excellence Winners

The Department each year gives awards to graduating Senior Anthropology majors with outstanding grade point averages. (No application necessary)


Elizabeth RobinsonElizabeth Robinson

"I have always had a love for learning about the past and other cultures. Ever since I was little I loved listening to stories about the Native Americans and I would come up with theories of my own as to how the Native people might have used things I saw around me. My fascination was not confined to Native Americans; documentaries of every sort, from ancient Rome to Neanderthals, are my go-to form of entertainment.”

Coupled with her love for working outside with her hands she thought anthropology, especially archaeology, would be the perfect field for her. In summer 2017 and again in 2019 she took the field school with Dr. Wagner working at Fort Kaskaskia and Millers Grove, and describes it as "one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life thus far."

Elizabeth anticipates going on to graduate school and ultimately obtaining a doctoral degree.

2020 Winners not shown:

Blessings Wilkerson
Megan Carson
Amanda Gomes Leppert


Madison RidenMadison Riden, of Nesbit, MS, is the recipient of a 2019 Excellence in Anthropology award. Madison is a senior at SIU with a major in Anthropology and minors in History and Global Studies.

Madison has served as the President of the Anthropology Club for two years, helping the club to build up and make Anthropology fun! She has enjoyed her time her at SIU and how supportive the department has been of her undergraduate research pertaining to Icelandic mythology. After graduation, Madison is heading to Beijing, China to teach English as a foreign language and study Chinese culture.

Sarah WernerSarah Werner, from Coopertown, TN, has been awarded a 2019 Excellence in Anthropology-High Honors award. She is a senior at SIU and will be graduating Summa Cum Laude this May with a bachelor's degree in Anthropology, and a bachelor's degree in Classics, and with a minor in Philosophy.

Sarah is interested is studying any and all aspects of American culture, though her focus tends towards the continuous shifts in cultural-political perception, and feminist theory/impact in contemporary America. Sarah Will be taking a year off to work on her research before moving on to graduate school in order to earn her Master degree, and possibly a PhD in later years.


Kate GrindstaffKate Grindstaff, of Columbia Illinois, received a 2019 Excellence in Anthropology Honors award. She will be graduating with a bachelor's degree in anthropology and a minor in history.

After graduating, Kate will be conducting independent research in Oxford and then hopefully obtaining a position in a history museum. She hopes to begin completion of a graduate degree in museum studies soon. She will never forget her amazing SIU experience!




Other 2019 winners not shown:

Callie Dunkel (see

Grace Vargas (see


Dana StaletsDana Stalets, of Pana, IL, is the recipient of a 2018 Excellence in Anthropology award. Dana is a senior at SIU with a dual-major in criminology/criminal justice and anthropology and minors in forensic science and psychology.

One of her favorite memories in the anthropology department was the 2017 archaeological field school at Miller Grove and Fort Kaskaskia. Not only did she get to be a part of establishing the correct location of the American fort, she also made wonderful friends that will last a lifetime.

After graduation, Dana plans to pursue a career in law.

Erin WoolardErin Woolard, from Zion, IL, was awarded a 2018 Excellence in Anthropology. She is a senior here at SIU and will be graduating in December with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, as well as a bachelor’s degree in international studies and minors in Spanish, geography, environmental studies, and Latino and Latin American Studies.

Erin is particularly interested in socio-cultural anthropology and is considering volunteering for the Peace Corps and/or obtaining a graduate degree in applied anthropology after graduating from SIU.


Hannah WardHannah Ward, of Paducah, Kentucky, has been awarded a 2018 Excellence in Anthropology Award. She is a major in Anthropology with minors in Classics, American Sign Language, and Political Science.

She works at the Center for Archaeological Investigations on their Fort Kaskaskia project. She is interested in studying the messages of horror movies, literature, and television and how they relate to the culture that created them. She is moving to Washington D.C. post-graduation.


Macey WeemerMacey T. Weemer, from Centralia, IL was awarded the 2018 Excellence in Anthropology Award by the Department of Anthropology. She is a senior here at SIU and will be graduating in May with her bachelor's degree in anthropology and a minor in forensic science.

After graduating, Macey will be moving to Belleville, IL hoping to obtain a job in Belleville's crime lab as a forensic scientist. She then plans on attending to graduate school to earn a master degree in either forensic anthropology or forensic science.



Alexaundra Baird

Melanie Bolling 

Chelsi Green

David Klein

Mikajah Questelle 

Emily Sample

Dana Stalets

Molly Wagoner

Hannah Ward

Macey T. Weemer

Erin Woolard


BeltzTaylor Beltz, lifelong native of Energy, Illinois, has been been awarded a 2015 Excellence in Anthropology Award by the Department of Anthropology. Beltz is a senior in anthropology minoring in Global Studies and Visual and Screen Cultures.

She is interested in how humans embed and enact their cultural identities in performance, music, and other forms of art. She loves exploring the ways in which indigenous groups maintain and express their identities in a contemporary setting, and how various Native American and Australian Aboriginal societies function in today's world. She is also concerned with LGBT issues, including how meanings of sexuality and gender vary across cultures. Her interest in the cinema has encouraged her to explore the ways in which anthropology can be utilized by filmmakers to make movies that challenge dominant discourses, support diversity, and give voice to marginalized groups within society. Additionally, she enjoys primatology studies, specifically those that areas that relate to primate behavior and conservation.

BolinRosemary D. Bolin, from Sauk Village, IL, been awarded a 2015 Excellence in Anthropology Award by the Department of Anthropology. Rosemary is majoring in both anthropology and animal science with a specialization in pre-veterinary medicine. She is interested in zooarchaeology and has been working in the Center for Archaeological Investigations analyzing prehistoric and historic artifacts.

Rosemary says archaeology has interested her since grade school and she was “hooked” on the subject after learning about the archaeology of Egypt in a history class. Rosemary was able to attend our department's Summer 2012 Archaeological Field School at Kincaid Mounds, IL.

HicksIsaac Hicks is an undergraduate major in cultural anthropology and was awarded a 2015 Excellence in Anthropology Award by the Department of Anthropology. The coolest thing about Anthropology is how it reaches into any and all sciences and arts in one way or another. He is very interested in the areas of anthropology dealing with narratives in comic books and linguistic phenomena in music. He also had an interested in applied anthropology which he plans to use in my endeavors as an entrepreneur in business.

Growing up in the country, outside of the small town of Sesser, IL, he always assumed the role of an outsider both literally and metaphorically. Being that kind of a person who is on the outside looking in, he couldn't help but wonder why and how people choose the life they have or how they fall into the slots society has for them. Going to church every Sunday morning, he was taught that the world is black and white, everything is either this way or that way, and there is only one way to live a life. During community college he studied music and for his humanities requirement he took an Intro to Cultural Anthropology course. It was my first exposure to anthropology outside of archaeology and it took me by surprise. This class showed me a world of colors and all the different and incredible ways people live their lives. After community college he took a two year break from school because he didn't want to ruin my passion for music by making it a career. When he finally decided to go back to school, he remembered his anthropology course and decided SIU was the best place to pursue is passion for anthropology and music.

MaughnDylan A. Maughn, from Watseka, IL, is the sixth Burkhart Scholar, the sole scholar for 2013-14. Dylan is a bright, exuberant junior majoring in anthropology. She states that she has always held an interest in history and past peoples and cultures, a love that ultimately led her to SIU. 

Maughn explains, "Since I can remember, I have always been fascinated with archaeology. I would spend copious hours watching documentaries about archaeological finds, reading history books and daydreaming about finding hidden treasures. As I have gotten older, my future aspirations have only heightened." These aspirations came to a peak as she attended the 2013 archaeological field school at Kincaid Mounds and participated in excavations of the Bridges Tavern Site, an archaeological site located on the infamous Trail of Tears in Johnson County, IL. Dylan was an integral part of these excavations, leading to archaeological confirmation that this site indeed was a general store where Native Americans stopped for supplies while on the Trail

Dylan hopes to pursue many more digs and expand her knowledge of archaeology in the future. After graduating, she plans to move to Wyoming, where she expects to begin a Master's program and continue her path to becoming a professional archaeologist.

RobertsonCaroline Robertson, from Dow, IL, was awarded the 2015 Excellence in Anthropology Award by the Department of Anthropology. She is a senior here at SIU and will be graduating in August with her bachelor's degree in anthropology and a minor in history. This fall, she will be attending graduate school in Washington, D.C. at the American University to earn a MA in Public Anthropology. She plans on using her award winning paper, “Memories of the Herrin Massacre” as a springboard for further ethnographic studies in historical traumatic memories.

SykesJaime Sykes, from San Diego California received the been awarded a 2015 Excellence in Anthropology Award by the Department of Anthropology. Jaime is an anthropology major receiving a minor in forensic science. Jaime decided to focus her studies on biological anthropology in order to meld her interests in science, history, and culture which were instilled in her from a young age by her parents who homeschooled her during her early years.

Currently, her broad research interests include paleopathology, dental anthropology, forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology of the Midwest, Southeastern U.S. and the Middle East. Her honors thesis research has focused on comparing biometric measurements taken from photographs with caliper measurements in order to improve metric results in dental and skeletal research.

Jaime presented her thesis at the 2014 meetings of the Midwest Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology Association this past October and plans to submit her work for publication in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology in the near future. She is also currently deciding between graduate school opportunities and will begin her Master of Arts degree in the fall. She eventually hopes to earn her Doctorate of Philosophy in Anthropology and pursue a career in academia. 


High Honors:

Alexandra Araya

Taylor Beltz

Rosemary Bolin

Maegan Burns

Patricia Burns

Krista Daniel

Isaac Hicks

Joice Lawrence

Caroline Robertson

Jaime Sykes

Rachel Tate


Dylan Maughn

Sasha Litt

Elizabeth A. Vales


Elizabeth A. Vales, originally from Lombard, Illinois, has been awarded a 2014 Excellence in Anthropology Award by the Department of Anthropology. Elisabeth’s interests in anthropology are varied, but most center on the study of human remains.

When it comes to the study of human remains, Elizabeth says she is most interested on forensic anthropology (the study of human remains to aid in crime cases) and archaeology. However, she is also interested in working with museum collections. She elaborates: “My future plan is to find a job in a museum and then go back to college for graduate school.”


High Honors:

Luisa Baj

Abigail Hilsabeck

Charles James


Frank Carnivele

Elizabeth Vales

Laura Hendrickson