Last summer, Danielle Schaf ’19 spent four weeks in England exploring archaeology and studying the history of Roman Britain. The experience deepened her fascination with “voices that haven’t been heard” and intensified her commitment to truthfully sharing “stories that haven’t been told,” she says. Schaf was one of six students from across the United States selected for a scholarship to the Fulbright UK Summer Institute at Durham University, where she practiced excavation techniques, took part in pottery and ceramic analysis, examined skeletal remains dating from 537 A.D., and visited culturally and historically significant sites in England and Scotland.
“In our last two weeks, when we were studying 5th- to 11th-century Northumbrian history, it was interesting to see the individuals whose history was missing,” says Schaf, a College of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in forensic science, writing and rhetoric, and anthropology (Maxwell School). “You hear about the monarchy, and you hear about the individuals in the church. But I wanted to hear about the women. I wanted to know about enslaved individuals. I wanted to know about everyday life and everyday people and how they made the city of Durham run—not just the people in power.”
I met incredible people with bright, strong minds and got to see things I’d never seen.
The trip was a first for Schaf, a first-generation college student who hails from a single-parent family in Shelby, Nebraska, and hadn’t traveled outside the States before. Her time abroad, which was funded through the US-UK Fulbright Commission, was “the opportunity of a lifetime,” she says. And it was an important step toward her goals of being a writer and bioarchaeologist—learning and teaching about past individuals and cultures through studying human remains. “I met incredible people with bright, strong minds and got to see things I’d never seen,” says Schaf, a Renée Crown University Honors Program student. “I also learned how problematic it can be to narrate history—and how powerful. I’ll take that into account with my research, now and in the future. I want to be able to narrate the story of someone who has lived in the past and no longer has the ability to voice their own story.”
Another learning opportunity Schaf treasures is her work with Maxwell School anthropology professor Shannon Novak last spring, conducting research on bones recovered from a 19th-century mental health asylum in Rome, New York. “The skeletal remains I worked with were of an individual who, you could see, was subjected to intense labor that included pain from heavy lifting,” she says. “It was very interesting and gave me the opportunity to talk about structural violence and engage in conversation about the stigma around mental illness.”
In addition to her rigorous academic pursuits, Schaf is enthusiastically involved in student life at Syracuse. She is co-captain of the women’s club volleyball team; a counselor for Camp Kesem, a free weeklong summer camp experience and peer support program for children who have been affected by a parent’s cancer; and a participant in CRU, a campus Christian organization. She’s also an RA, working with first-year students to help make their Syracuse experience as positive as hers has been. “This is my home now and I love it,” Schaf says. “The people here are going to change the world. They already are. They’re certainly changing my world.”
This story was first published on March 1, 2018 and last updated on . It also appeared as “Excavating Stories” in the issue of Syracuse University Magazine.
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