Safe and Inclusive Field Schools

The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville STEM Center, in collaboration with the Arkansas Archeological Survey and Mississippi State University, are in the first phase of a three phase project to investigate policies and procedures that help support safe and inclusive archaeological field schools in the southeastern United States. Funded by the National Science Foundation (Award No. 1937392), the first phase of the project will include conducting a survey of archaeological field school directors to understand current practices implemented by directors to prevent sexual harassment and assault. The research team will be conducting this research among field directors who offered a field school in 2018 and/or 2019 and/or will be offering a field school in 2020 or 2021. 

Project Rationale 

Researchers have recognized the positive learning outcomes that students achieve when they have the opportunity to participate in field-based research. Through such activities, students show increases in their motivation to learn and perceptions of their abilities to succeed in their field of study. Field-based learning also helps students achieve cognitive and metacognitive gains and competencies that move them from a novice to an expert understanding.

In the United States, field-based undergraduate training has long been a primary educational component for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in anthropology specializing in archaeology. Undergraduate students who aspire to be an archaeologist must enroll in a field school, an immersive field course where students learn archaeological field methods.

Although many researchers have noted the positive gains that undergraduate students experience from field-based research, recent studies demonstrate that field research can come with negative consequences. In archaeology, a recent study documented high rates of sexual harassment and assault among those conducting field research: 66% and 13% of respondents to a recent survey administered to archaeologists conducting research in the southeastern United States reported sexual harassment and assault respectively (Meyers et al., 2018). Although not exclusive to field school students, these numbers, and others, suggest that sexual harassment and assault is common and student trainees are frequently subjected to such treatment. 

The primary aim of this research project is to document and determine the practices and procedures that promote harassment and assault free environments for undergraduate students at archaeological field schools. Through this research, we aim to address the following research questions:

  1. Is there a set of practices and procedures commonly implemented by field directors with potential to create a field school that is free of sexual harassment, assault, and violence? 
  2. What set of policies and procedures is most frequently implemented among field schools and are these policies and procedures perceived as effective? 
  3. Do additional policies and procedures emerge among field schools as effective?
  4. How can these policies and procedures be broadly implemented to increase field school safety and inclusion among diverse field schools?

Dr. Carol E. Colaninno (, research associate professor at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Center for STEM Research, Education, & Outreach serves as PI on this project. Colaninno is a registered professional archaeologist and STEM education researcher who has overseen multiple federal, state, and private grants funding research and outreach in archaeology and STEM education. Throughout her career, Colaninno has placed an emphasis on providing and understanding opportunities for women to persist in archaeology and STEM.

Dr. Emily Beahm ( is a research station archeologist with the Arkansas Archeological Survey, University of Arkansas – Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Station. For several years, Beahm helped design and supervise an archaeological field school through Middle Tennessee State University. Beahm has experience evaluating curriculum efficacy and implementing action research through her annual educational archaeology program “Project Dig”. She has experience designing educational research instruments including surveys, reflective discussions, material analysis, and teacher evaluations to gauge students’ understanding of culture and archaeological processes. Beahm also serves as the newsletter associate editor for SEAC. 

Dr. Carl Drexler ( is a research associate professor with the University of Arkansas and a station archeologist with the Arkansas Archeological Survey – Southern Arkansas University research station. He has been involved with a number of field schools in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, supporting field school education and instructional design. His work with descendant communities and heritage groups, focusing on conflict sites, leverages his skills in ethnographic interviewing and oral history collection.

Dr. Shawn Lambert ( is an assistant professor at Mississippi State University and a research fellow at the Cobb Institute of Archaeology, a research unit at Mississippi State University. Prior to his appointment at Mississippi State, Lambert served as Utah’s state public archaeologist. His responsibilities included public outreach, education, curriculum development, and public excavations. Lambert also served as the tribal liaison for Utah’s eight sovereign Native American nations. He currently serves on the SEAC Sexual Harassment and Assault Task Force. 

Ms. Cassidy Rayburn ( is a graduate student at Mississippi State University. She obtained her BS in anthropology at the University of West Georgia with a minor in history. Her research interests include the peopling of the North Americas, prehistoric trade routes, and most recently remote sensing, African American cemeteries, and cultural landscapes. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in applied anthropology. She is also involved with the Safe and Inclusive Field Schools project, which aims to reduce sexual harassment, assault, and violence in archaeology field schools.

Mr. Clark Sturdevant ( is a graduate assistant with the SIUE STEM Center and is assisting with the research. Clark is pursuing his master’s degree in Cultural Heritage and Resources Management. He works at the SIUE STEM Center helping to produce outreach content.


  • Recommendations for Developing Harassment-and Assault-Free Field Schools – Presentation text and PowerPoint (SAA Workshop Series, 2020)
  • Creating and Supporting a Harassment and Assault Free Field School (Advances in Archaeological Practice, 2020)
  • Preventing and Reducing Occurrences of Sexual Harassment and Assault at Archaeological Field Schools – Presentation text and PowerPoint (National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in High Education, 2020)
  • Evidence-based Transformation of Undergraduate Field Schools to Promote Safety and Inclusivity (Horizon and Tradition, 2020)


  • Improving Equity, Access, and Professionalism at Archaeological Field Schools through the Prevention and Reduction of Sexual Harassment and Assault – PowerPoint (Society for American Archaeology, 2021)
  • “These are my obligations”: Preventing Sexual Harassment and Assault at Field School – Poster (Southeastern Archaeological Conference 2021)
  • What Happens in the Field Should Not Stay in the Field: Student’s Understanding of Sexual Harassment and Conflict at Field Schools – Poster (Southeastern Archaeological Conference 2021)
  • Does the Field School Experience Change Students’ Sense of Belonging and Self-Efficacy in Archaeology? – Poster (Southeastern Archaeological Conference 2021)
  • The Field School Syllabus: Examining the Intersection of Best Practices and Practices that Support Student Safety and Inclusivity (Advances in Archaeological Practice, 2021)

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Award No. 1937392. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.