Normandale Community College's Department of Anthropology is into the second phase of the David B. Jones Foundation's $443,274 grant for BroadBased Experiential Learning of Paleontological Minnesota, and they could not be more enthusiastic about how it's going.
"We had 22 students at our Field School the weekend of October 1-2, and were able to inaugurate our new building, complete with furniture, a portable toilet, microscopes, tool kits and shovels," Anthropology instructor Dr. Susan Krook said. "We found pot sherds and tools, along with a stone feature whose purpose has not been determined yet, dating from 200 AD. This grant helped us secure a lease for this dig site for the next five years, and we look forward to many discoveries."
Anthropology Instructor Pat Bonnie added, "We are staging meetings on the facility work and major capital asset procurement. There is more to be done, including instrumental analysis of artifacts and the site itself. This will probably be undertaken next semester." If this seems rather sophisticated for a community college, it is. Normandale is the only one in the state and only one of a few in the nation that has an Anthropology program. Both Minnesota State University, Mankato and the University of Minnesota have programs, and Normandale feeds many students to the U of M.
"We are so excited about our new equipment that we are inviting the MSU, Mankato and University of Minnesota programs to come take a look, and share how they can now use the latest methods to conduct their research." Dr. Krook explained. The Normandale Foundation helped seed the process by providing a couple of Internal Grants designed to help departmental dream projects blossom.
Dr. Krook had seen an article in the Star Tribune seven years ago about how a road construction crew had uncovered artifacts near Tracy, Minnesota. She started making phone calls and found a private landowner who was willing to donate a time period for them to explore. One discovery led to another, and now they have a five-year lease and a field school that provides a first-class educational experience for students who are realizing that higher education is a viable decision for them.
Her persistence was supported by Normandale. "One of the reasons faculty stay here is because the college allows people to flourish, which is not always the norm," Krook says. "This approach definitely makes me a more interesting person in the classroom," she laughed. "Colleagues at partner college Southwest Minnesota State University alerted our department to this funding opportunity, and the grant request process started." Bonnie gives a lot of credit to the Grant department staff, Angie Arnold and Cindy Zoul, for making the magic happen.
Foundation founder David Jones operated a farm management business in Minnesota. When David was 37 years old he decided to go back to college. After taking a course in geology, he developed his passion for paleontology. He expanded his knowledge and passion with extensive reading, seminars, and hands-on experience. He then dedicated himself to bringing the excitement of paleontology and scientific discovery to the public. This led him to start the David B. Jones Foundation in 1998. He passed away in 2013, but not before meeting with Normandale's Anthropology department and approving this project.
We see David's vision as a living embodiment of what Normandale does: ignite a passion for learning and doing well, no matter what your age and background. Krook and Bonnie and their department are passionate practitioners of this belief too. "This is a unique opportunity, and we are fully positioned to take advantage of it in every way," they agreed.