Alumni Spotlight

Ashley Ezzo

We are delighted to announce that Ashley Ezzo, (M.A. August, 2021) has received the Alice Eaves Barnes Award, the University-wide recognition for a master’s student who has displayed tenacity in the face of adversity, while attaining excellence in both the classroom and outside endeavors. Here is what Ashley had to say about her Anthropology studies:

I graduated with a double major B.A. in Anthropology and Comparative Humanities with two minors (Psychology and Archaeology) from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018. The following year, at the meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (now the American Association of Biological Anthropologists), I met Dr. Crespo and Dr. Marklein. Shortly after, I was warmly introduced to Dr Markowitz and the rest of the Anthropology department. After meeting the department, I felt the UofL M.A. program was the right fit for me.  

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, I graduated with my M.A. in two years with concentrations in bioarchaeology and biomedical research. My M.A. thesis, precepted by Dr. Marklein,  examines the demographic distributions and paleopathological profiles of juvenile skeletal remains from high SES (St. Bride’s Crypt and Chelsea Old Church) and low SES (St. Bride’s Lower and Crossbones) Postmedieval (1700-1850 CE) London cemeteries. During the Postmedieval period, children, especially of low socioeconomic status (SES), participated in the workforce and therefore, faced large amounts of stress during their short lives. While results indicated higher mortality in low SES, a risk associated with low SES circumstances, most differences in pathological conditions did not reflect a similar divide. Rather, paleopathological distributions showed greater differences by individual cemetery than between SES samples, suggesting more variation within ascribed SES groups. 

Currently, I am a research technician for the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center with an intent to improve the quality of life of those in the Spinal Cord Injury community.

Shelly Biesel

Please give us a brief career update- what have you been doing since completing your MA?

I have been completing my PhD in ecological anthropology at the University of Georgia. Last year I received a Fulbright-Hays to do research in Pernambuco, Brazil’s Zona da Mata, where I partner with Christine Dabat at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco. Although Covid-19 forced me to return early from fieldwork, I am still virtually undertaking my dissertation project with help from community partners in Brazil. 

What aspects of  your graduate training at UofL  best prepared you to achieve your professional goals?

I definitely benefitted most from the kind, patient, and attentive mentorship I received from not one, but multiple faculty in the Anthropology Department. As a first-generation college-student, I felt like I really needed that sort of close attention and guidance. As I have treaded further into my PhD program at UGA, I have also realized how much I continue to benefit from the theoretical and writing training I received while completing my MA at UofL. 

Tell us about memorable moments/events of your time in the MA Program?

One of my favorite memories was touring the refugee community gardens in Lisa Markowitz’s Anthropologies of Food course! And of course, late nights writing my dissertation in the library coffee shop was a quintessential pastime.

Any advice to current MA candidates?

While you may think you are under-experienced, go do fieldwork for your MA project. I learned so much from the months I spent in Appalachia, Kentucky. And professionally speaking, that project facilitated my first peer-reviewed academic publication when I eventually got to my PhD program! It does not have to be anything too fancy or extensive, but you will learn a lot from conducting interviews and managing a project of your very own. 

Also, if you plan on being an anthropologist, do not short change the theory readings. They may seem daunting in the moment, but they will help you tremendously later on. 

Pdf: "Research in Economic Anthropology" (2021)

Meet Megan Duncanson—UofL Graduate, Class of 2019!


Since completing her MA at UofL, Megan has had the opportunity to travel around the country before starting a PhD program in Anthropology (Bioarchaeology) at the Ohio State University. Below she reflects on her time in the Department of Anthropology at UofL.

How graduate training at UofL prepared Megan to achieve her professional goals 

In general, the same toolkit that was helpful to me moving through the M.A. program has been helpful for my continued study at the next level: time management, organization, and attention to detail. All skills that I developed while completing coursework and research for my M.A. and which I continue to hone.

Megan describes memorable moments/events during her time in our MA Program

Memorable events include the Beer with a Professor series I helped organize through the graduate student association. Attending talks from visiting professors in Ekstrom Library was always a treat. What sticks out to me after my time in the department (for both undergrad and graduate degrees) is not so much any specific event, but the memories of having a department where I could do work, spend time with my cohort and peers, the conversations had, and the comraderies developed both in and out of classroom.

Megan’s advice to current MA candidates and prospective students

Stay as involved as possible with both the graduate student association for the department, as well as organizations outside the program. Take advantage of the myriad of lectures, workshops, and other opportunities that are offered to you by both the department as well as the university. Be sure to attend conferences and broaden your perspective as much as you can. Even if your research interest is narrow, other perspectives can provide insight!

David Schatz

Please give us a brief career update- what have you accomplished after graduation and what are you doing now?

Since graduating I have continued to work in the archaeological field much as I have for the last 29 years. The major change has been the size and scope of the projects that I have been fortunate to take on including several Phase II and III urban projects. These projects all required extensive research and writing in addition to months of fieldwork to accomplish. I am currently working on the Beecher Terrace redevelopment project where I am co-PI. This project will ultimately excavate 21 house lots in the Beecher Terrace area at the eastern end of the Russell neighborhood here in Louisville.

How has your Anthropological training at UofL helped you achieve your career goals?

The training and coursework during my time in the UofL graduate program provided me with a whole new vista on analysis and interpretation of the material culture that is recovered in the field. Grad school also greatly improved my writing which is important when communicating the findings from an archaeological site. Another important aspect of my experience was learning GIS something that has become integral to almost all projects that I run these days.

Tell us about memorable moments/events of your graduate life at UofL?

My most memorable experience was probably my first week of grad school, where I began to wonder if I had bitten off more that I could chew. When I started in the grad program, I hadn’t taken any college classes in 15 years, was a father of three, and worked a fulltime job. My first two courses were theory classes with Dr. Parkhurst and Dr. Peteet and…well let’s just say that I thought I was a decent writer, but it was a real challenge to make the transition from technical to academic writing!

Any advice to fellow Anthropology students at UofL?

For undergrads: Go to class. Read. Interact with both your professors and grad students. For grad students? Again, keep up with your reading. If you are taking a seminar class, be proactive in the discussion even if you are a little lost. Interact with the material you are learning as much as possible. I can’t recommend GIS classes enough. They provide the basis for data analysis that is extremely useful in all anthropological fields. Have fun! You are embarking on a very intellectually rewarding career. It’s great to get paid for something you love!

How can we contact you?

The best way to contact me is at at Corn Island Archaeology here in Louisville where I am a Senior Archaeologist and Principal Investigator. I have, for a number of years, guest lectured for David Hoefer talking about what to expect in cultural resource management careers in archaeology, so I still enjoy interacting with fellow students if they need advice or career opportunities. I’m usually busy so it may take a few days to get back to you. I might even have work if you’re interested!

I also invite readers to check out a couple of recent stories about the work my colleagues and I do at Corn Island Archaeology:

Johanna Yun, MD

Graduated from our program in 2014. Did Fulbright in S. Korea in 2015, now MD.

Please give us a brief career update- what have you accomplished after graduation from UofL?

This May, I am graduating from the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine to start a four-year residency in neurology at Emory University. Prior to medical school, I taught English as a high school teacher in Seocheon, South Korea, through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. 

How has your Anthropological training at UofL helped you achieve your career goals? 

My anthropological training at UofL built me a foundation to analyze why people do the things that they do and to strive to be more culturally aware. It has taught me that much of our daily practice and the problems that we face are rooted deeply in our history. In the medical field, it is vital to know a person's history, who they are, and what they value. If I know more about the person as a whole, I can then identify how to treat the person, staying aligned with his or her quality of life and values. 

Tell us about memorable moments/events of your life at UofL?

I absolutely loved my time at UofL! One of my most memorable moments was going on a trip to Greece for the Archaeology of Ancient Greece Honors seminar with Dr. Hale. It was so much fun to learn about ancient mythology, historical religious practices, and architecture as we stood in the place of where it all happened! Through the Brown Fellows Program, I also traveled to Nepal for a social research internship. I lived in a village homestay in Sarangkot, and saw Mount Everest while I was there! On campus, I really enjoyed my course in medical anthropology with Dr. Tillquist. A lot of our discussion has become relevant to my personal journey in medicine and has made me think about the complexity of diagnosing mental illness. I also loved having late-night conversations with friends, who would turn out to be my closest friends after 9 years!

Any advice to fellow Anthropology students at UofL?

Be respectful to everyone you meet. Kindness and politeness are never out of style.

Self-awareness is the start of self-improvement. Knowing yourself will lead you to where you want to go.

Be intentional about what you do. Do activities that you genuinely would enjoy and learn from people who inspire you.

Don’t beat yourself up for circumstances you cannot change. Change the ones you can.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Share your challenges with others and find strength in numbers. 

How is life as an MD candidate? How can we contact you?

It’s a very humbling experience. You will never know everything in medicine. But you are expected to know a lot and it can be overwhelming at times. It's easy to lose confidence in yourself and have self-doubt. But, through it all, you learn how to stay resilient, take care of yourself, and build up yourself and others. Through the clinical rotations, you learn so much from your patients. I’ve had many deep and intimate conversations with people that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to have. Having that kind of insight into the human experience is truly a privilege. 

Please feel free to reach me at my email,

Irene Yates

Please give us a brief career update- what have you accomplished after graduation?

Before graduation I applied to and was accepted into the JET Program, a Japanese government program that recruits native English speakers to work as assistant language teachers in Japanese schools. Immediately after graduating, I moved to a suburb of Tokyo where I now teach English at a public high school.

How has your Anthropological training at UofL helped you achieve your career goals?

At UofL, I learned skills that have enabled me to adapt to my work environment. My current career path is a bit unconventional, as my focus of study, with the guidance of Dr. Julie Peteet, was forced migration and Muslim charity. However, my fieldwork training taught me effective observation and to question my assumptions, skills that I use every day in the classroom and office. I also had the good fortune of working as a graduate teaching assistant with Dr. Angela Storey, who helped me to become more confident in presenting ideas in a classroom setting. Currently, one of my responsibilities is to introduce diverse perspectives to students and encourage them to think critically, learning objectives that mirror introductory anthropology courses.

Tell us about memorable moments/events of your graduate life at UofL?

Most of the most memorable moments of my graduate life at UofL happened outside of the classroom – intense theory discussions and light department gossip in the computer room or at AGSA meetings, visits from dogs during the rush to grade final exams, chatting about the future of refugees in Kentucky over a generous plate of Bosnian chevapi. These small things made my graduate experience special.

Any advice to fellow Anthropology students at UofL?

Graduate school is a great time to network and learn outside of class. It’s difficult because of how busy school and family and work can keep you, but try to make time to use university resources while you have access to them. Go to special lectures. Attend AGSA meetings. If you read an interesting article, e-mail the author. Submit conference abstracts. Just because it doesn’t get you a grade doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time! That includes making time for resting and taking care of yourself.

How is Japan treating you, and how can we contact you?

West Tokyo is great. You can be in downtown Tokyo in an hour by train in one direction or out in the mountains in a tiny village in an hour in the other direction. The best thing about the winter is that you can often see the top of Mt. Fuji from the train station! My husband and I are still enjoying spending weekends wandering around different neighborhoods. Japanese is hard, but we’re doing our best to learn at the local community center. We meet a lot of other migrant workers there, too.

People can contact me on this e-mail: