Previous Outstanding Students | Anthropology | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

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Previous Outstanding Students

The Department each year gives an award to the Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Anthropology majors with the highest overall grade point average. (No application necessary)


Megan CarsonMegan Carson

Megan Carson is a senior from Percy, Illinois studying in Anthropology and Classics with a minor in art history. Megan plans to work for SIU’s Center for Archaeological Investigations before continuing into graduate school to specialize in archaeology.

She hopes to work for the forest service one day with archaeological sites. Her interests are in educating the public about both the environment and archaeology or pursuing archaeology in the Mediterranean region.

Amanda Goemes LeppertAmanda Gomes Leppert

Amanda is a senior from Marseilles, Illinois, majoring in Anthropology with additional interests in Chemistry and Latino Studies. Although critical medical anthropology was what brought Amanda into the field, she is currently interested in structural violence, the Anthropology of Development, and the discourses behind mega-development projects, as their teleological agendas often marginalize local communities as they are implemented. Their insufficient analyses of sociocultural and biosocial effects allow this marginalization to occur without recognition by the political entities implementing them.

Amanda is interested in continuing onto graduate school and studying medical anthropology. Her current goal is to get an MD. PhD. so that she can work for an NGO focusing in Global Health and critically analyze the programs she takes part in. Along with the Outstanding Junior Award, Amanda also received this year the Mae Nelson Memorial Award in the College of Liberal Arts, and the first annual Anthropology Undergraduate Research Award for her planned study of a wind farm development project in Oaxaca, Mexico.


Kyleigh DiGiovanniKyleigh DiGiovanni

Kyleigh DiGiovanni, a junior majoring in Anthropology, comes from a suburb in Richmond, Virginia. From an early age, Kyleigh has been fascinated by different cultures, especially ancient cultures, such as the Ancient Egyptians and mummies. Kyleigh’s mom attributes this to the fact that before she was 6 months of age, she had been to a special exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art featuring the art of King Tut at least 10 times. Kyleigh  declared an anthropology major as a freshman. After her freshman year, Kyleigh went to Italy to study at the University of Pisa, cleaning and characterizing bones from the 13th century and Kyleigh was hooked on osteo-archeology.

Every time Kyleigh sees a bone, she feels compelled to tell it’s story, to honor that person by bringing that person’s life to the light. The following year, she returned to Europe and participated in digs in Spain and then back in Italy, affirming her desire to be an osteo-archeologist. After she graduates, she hopes to take a gap year, preferably in Italy, followed by graduate school.

Cassie HintonCassie Hinton

Cassie Hinton, from Mahomet, Illinois, is a junior majoring in Anthropology and triple minoring in Forensic Science, American Sign Language, and Environmental Studies.

Cassie’s main areas of study are in Biological Anthropology, but more specifically Forensic Anthropology and Primatology. Ideally she would love to study the evolution of humans and human ancestors. She also has plans to attend graduate school in the future.


Catherine HosickKatherine Hosick

Katherine Hosick, from Enfield, Illinois, is a sophomore majoring in Anthropology. Due to her passion for helping others, she is also double minoring in Forensic Science and American Sign Language. Katherine is pursuing her degrees with the plans of becoming a Forensic Anthropologist. Katherine prepares to attend Graduate school once she finishes her undergraduate studies and would like to work towards a doctoral degree in Anthropology.

Alexaundra BairdAlexaundra (Lexy) Baird is a senior from Bolingbrook, Illinois studying Anthropology with a Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor. Sociocultural Anthropology is her favorite area, where she has focused on food, sexuality, gender, globalization, modernity, consumerism, and NGO's. From her study abroad experience in India, she learned to appreciate food in a different way. She wants to dive into ideas such as ‘farm to fork,’ food’s social value, and the ethical consumerism of products. She also wants to combine her interests in WGSS and fuse them with Anthropology to look at LGBTQIA+ and human rights issues. She will continue her education in Anthropology in the future.

Grace VargasGrace Vargas, from Chicago, Illinois, has been awarded the 2017 Outstanding Sophomore Award and the 2018 Outstanding Junior Award by the Department of Anthropology. Grace is majoring in Anthropology and triple minoring in Spanish Language, Latino Studies, and Marketing. She has plans to eventually attend graduate school, and ideally, would like to work in local government. Currently, Grace is preparing to conduct post-disaster Anthropology research in Houston on the effects of Hurricane Harvey, under the supervision of Dr. Barrios during the summer of 2018.


Elizabeth RobinsonElizabeth Robinson resident of Carterville, has been awarded the 2018 outstanding Sophomore Award.She is a majoring in Anthropology with an Art minor. Her focus of study is in archeology with a particular interest in the initial peopling of the Americas. This raises questions about the way the culture of these First People relates to the culture of the modern native tribes, and how each tribe culturally differs from each other despite all being the descendants of these First People. Understanding the past is the foundation of building the future and so much of the history of the Americas has been lost or buried due to colonialism and racial prejudice.She would like to utilize her love of art to create replicas of artifacts for museums and study as well as creating independent pieces.

Taylor Beltz

Taylor R. Beltz, lifelong native of Energy, Illinois, has been awarded the 2014 Outstanding Junior Award and the 2015 Outstanding Senior 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.

VaughnRebecca Vaughn has been awarded the 2014 Outstanding Sophomore Award and the 2015 Outstanding Junior Award by the Department of Anthropology. Vaughn, from Herrin, IL is majoring in anthropology with a minor in sociology. She’s most interested in, and hopes to one day study, various internet subcultures and how they interact with and change society. After graduating, she plans on joining the AmeriCorps and then continuing on to graduate school while dedicating some small time to traveling. This photo is from her Spring Break backpacking trip to Athens. 

HilsabeckAbigail Hilsabeck, originally from Jacksonville, Illinois, has been awarded the 2014 Outstanding Senior Award by the Department of Anthropology at SIU. Abigail studies linguistic anthropology and balances out these studies with a minor in art history.

Abigail elaborates: “My focus is linguistic anthropology and specifically how gender is displayed and preformed within different facets of American society.  I plan to devote next year to preparing for and applying to graduate school while also possibly doing a second year of service in Americorps to work and grow in a community in need.”