MAI’s transition

MAI's transition

Sami Rapp, Editor-in-Chief

Late on Tuesday, Nov. 17, it was announced that James Adovasio, Ph.D., and Mercyhurst University have ended their relationship.

From 2008-2015, Adovasio acted as provost for the university. He was also the dean of the Zurn School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics until recently.

Adovasio has worked as a professor of archaeology for more than two decades and was known for his extensive archaeological excavations at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and his research concerning perishable technology.

This story will be updated on our website as more information becomes available.

Update: Nov. 18,
The Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute is in a state of transition.

At a meeting on Wednesday Nov. 18, David Dausey, Ph.D. and MAI faculty members talked with roughly fifty students from the archaeology, geology and forensic departments about their concerns and questions, in light of the departure of James Adovasio, Ph.D., from the university.

“We believe we have the best programs in the country and we are all proud of you, the wonderful students who will continue on that tradition,” Dausey said at the start of the meeting. “This is a transition for us, it is a big transition since Dr. Adovasio was one of the people who were instrumental in founding the program and it has grown in the 25 to 30 years into the impressive major we see.”

The new department heads were introduced at the meeting. Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., is the new director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute. Mary Ann Owoc, Ph.D., is now the department head for the anthropology/ archaeology department. Nick Lang, Ph.D., was also announced as the head of the geology department.

While current satellite projects are being rethought and restructured, Dausey assured students that gaining hands on field experience is still a big component of MAI.

“Our desire at this point is to continue to grow as well as rebrand and expand. We would like to offer more opportunities locally to gain hands on skills,” Dausey said.

One project that will not be continuing is the Vero Beach excavations.

Another announcement at the meeting was the possibility of renaming of the institute itself.

“There is a good chance that we will rebrand to make sure that this title is broadly representative of all of you, since we have applied forensic science and geology as well, so that the name is more inclusive of everybody,” Dausey said.

Students had the chance to voice their concerns at the meeting.

The first question concerned faculty retention. Growth will be occurring in the department; however, the first concern is determining what the department needs.

“It depends on what the collective faculty says they need, and where they want to grow,” said Dausey. “There will be growth in the department as we go on.”

Owoc also discussed this topic, stating that a large portion of the student demographic is interested in historic archeology, and that it has the possibility for growth in the future.

Judy Thomas currently teaches the historic archaeology classes.
“Judy Thomas will be retiring at the end of the year,” said Owoc. “It is a pivotal position; we have two departments that depend on that position, we have a large student demographic and a laboratory.”

Questions arose concerning the course load Adovasio was teaching and had planned to teach in the coming terms. However, current faculty members have stepped in to teach the classes that Adovasio was teaching this term and for the upcoming J-term.

Field methods, which will be taught in the J-term, will now be taught by Allen Quinn, director of the prehistoric ceramics lab and project archaeologist for the university.

Students were also concerned about the merit their degrees would hold. The faculty and staff reminded students that they would still be trained the way they were promised−the MAI way.

“Our program is meritorious because of our graduates. Beyond names and titles, the larger community will continue to know the amazing works we do and they will know that our merit is you,” Owoc said.

Lang also reiterated this message. “The quality of your education will not be impacted. We will be a stronger department,” Lang said.

If students who did not attend the meeting still have questions, they should contact the appropriate faculty members.

“It has always been our mission and will continue to be our mission to put your concerns first. We are here because we believe in the educational experience,” said Owoc. “All of us are happy to have conversations with all of you and answer your questions about scheduling and things to make sure your years here are as productive as they have been.”