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Danielle Schaf Is Syracuse University’s First Beinecke Scholar
Danielle Schaf, a junior majoring in anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School and in forensic science and writing and rhetoric in Arts and Sciences and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, is a recipient of a 2018 Beinecke Scholarship. She is one of just 18 students awarded the Beinecke Scholarship for 2018. The Beinecke Scholarship Program was established in 1971 by the Board of Directors of the Sperry and Hutchinson Co. to honor Edwin, Frederick and Walter Beinecke. The program encourages and enables highly motivated students of exceptional promise to pursue opportunities available to them and to be courageous in the selection of a graduate course of study in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
01The Beinecke Award provides funding toward graduate education. What are your plans when you graduate from Syracuse University in May 2019?
Following graduation, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology, with a concentration in bioarchaeology. After earning my Ph.D., I aspire to have a career as a professor at a research university, providing the kind of mentorship I have received to future students. I want to introduce students to anthropological and bioarchaeological perspectives that will change the way they interact and live within the world.
02As a Durham University Fulbright Summer Institute participant in the summer of 2017 (through the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission), you explored the culture, history and heritage of the United Kingdom and studied archaeology and medieval history at Durham University. How has that experience affected you and the trajectory of your studies?
My time in England last summer was an experience I will never forget. I had the incredible opportunity to engage in landscape archaeology, photogrammetry, pottery and ceramic analysis, osteoarchaeology and DNA analysis practicals, and explore 5th-11th-century Northumbrian history. I grew as a scholar researcher and student—and got to examine what the discipline of anthropology looks like on the other side of the globe. Being a Fulbright Summer Institute participant has instilled in me the motivation to return to the U.K. potentially for graduate studies. It truly was an opportunity of a lifetime.
03Tell us a bit about the research you have done, and the research you will be doing at the Smithsonian this summer, analyzing the effects of labor and activity on skeletal remains.
Throughout my time here at SU, I have had the privilege to work with and be mentored by Dr. Shannon Novak, a brilliant anthropologist and bioarchaeologist. In addition, I also have had the opportunity to do research in SU’s Physical Anthropology Lab, in which I focus on the biomechanical effects of labor therapy at the 19th-century Oneida County Asylum. For my Renée Crown University Honors Program capstone, I will be assisting Alanna Warner-Smith, a doctoral candidate in anthropology, in examining the effects of labor on the skeletal remains of 43 pre-Famine Irish immigrant women from the Huntington Collection located at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. My goal is to focus on the lived experiences and the narratives of these women. Though I know the narrative that I will tell is fragmentary and certainly not the story they would tell themselves if they were living, it is necessary and significant, especially for a population that has been perpetually dehumanized in life and death. These women had names and stories, and I want my research to illuminate that.
04In your Beinecke application personal statement, you said, “My family background and service work have, I think, made me a nuanced and empathetic researcher of labor, gender, structural violence and inequality.” How have your experiences fired in you a passion for the academic and research work you are now doing?
I come from a single-parent home and a low-socioeconomic background, and because of that I have witnessed and experienced the inequality and weight (which in honesty sometimes feels like shackles) of those identities. Anthropology has given me a framework—structural violence—to understand the world through and to implement in my work. Further, I have also witnessed the intersectionality of those identities along with gender and labor, and how that can affect someone and their body—emotionally, mentally and physically. These experiences gave me my academic and research passions. I believe my background has given me a really unique perspective to view skeletal remains and contribute to the disciplines of bioarchaeology and anthropology.
05What was the application process for the Beinecke Award like?
I took the application process seriously, so it involved lots of drafts and lots of editing! I drafted seven different personal statements and six different resumes until my final application was ready for submission. I worked with Jolynn Parker and the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising through the process. I cannot thank them enough for their dedication, guidance and mentorship, and for pushing me to find my voice and helping me articulate who I am and my aspirations.
06You were recently named one of the two 2019 Senior Class Marshals. What do you think about leading your senior class at Commencement next year?
I don’t think I could ever fully express what it means to me to be selected as a senior class marshal. There aren’t words that can define my gratitude. I truly am humbled. Being class marshal means I get to represent SU and the incredible class of 2019, a class with bright, brilliant individuals, people who are making a difference on this campus and who are going to and already are changing the world. It also means more to me than just representing SU and my senior class. By being a senior class marshal, I also get to represent students from working-class backgrounds and single-parent homes. That means everything to me.
Editor’s Note: Syracuse University can nominate one junior who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement for the Beinecke Scholarship each year. Nominations are conducted through the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) in early December.