Students on archaeological dig
Not many research disciplines encompass martial arts in Brazil, autism in the United States, art in Turkey, and the study of water use behavior in San Diego.
But graduate students of IU’s Department of Anthropology take on field studies that include these topics and much more. However, these students couldn’t venture into the field without the aid of David C. Skomp.
“I can’t imagine the department would be what it is today without the David C. Skomp Fellowship,” insists Eduardo Brondizio, professor and chair of IU Anthropology. “I don’t think we’d be as large, as well regarded, or as competitive.”
David Skomp received a bachelor’s degree in 1962. In his early 40s, he passed away, leaving a $100,000 endowment to the department. Since that time, the Skomp Fellowship has grown to over $1 million. And with it, so has the department.
The fellowship supports graduate research, allowing aspiring anthropologists to conduct field studies around the world. This is vital when the department competes for high caliber students, who want the opportunities only the global classroom can offer. It also supports individual fellowships to bring the best graduate students to campus, an area Brondizio says is the department’s most pressing need as it competes with the top American graduate programs.
Beyond that, the funds have been vital for the department’s annual lecture series, which brings distinguished experts to IU to discuss the nature of anthropology.
“We are on the forefront of really important topics,” says Brondizio, such as race and ethnicity, consumer culture and globalization, human evolution and health, endangered languages, and human adaptation. “For instance, we find that business students who have a background in anthropology are better suited to understanding the complexity of globalization and conducting business in varying cultures. And we have research on the human dimension of environmental change.”
Throughout this year, IU Anthropology is celebrating its 60th anniversary. That celebration will include recognition of the Skomp Fellowship. Brondizio admits he’d love to find a Skomp relative to include in the celebration, but hasn’t had any luck yet.
“I’d love to show that person the impact on our department and the careers of more than 500 graduate students: the studies we’ve done on some of the most important topics of our times, the research we’ve conducted, introduce them to the students David has supported and inspired—all from their family member’s gift,” says Brondizio. “It has been truly tremendous.”