Off to Fiji! Eight NKU Students and Alums Join Dr. Sharyn Jones for Anthropology Research


“They’re going to a place that’s very remote — no Facebook, no working toilets, no running water and that’s not something every student wants to do, even if they get paid...”

By Nancy Curtis
NKU Marketing + Communications Intern

Eight NKU students and alumni, along with faculty members, will be giving up everyday life and pleasures in July for an excavation trip to the remote parts of Fiji.

Sharyn Jones, an anthropology professor and the leader of the trip, applied for a grant through the National Science Foundation called National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduate’s Opportunity. She received that grant, which allowed Jones three trips to Fiji. She had gone to Fiji multiple times prior through another grant.

It’s a competitive process, but Jones felt confident in her program.

“Mine is unique because I take students abroad and have them research in a still very isolated culture,” Jones said.

Jones’ specialty is food, specifically marine resources and their uses. Fiji is the perfect place for that.

“In Fiji there are lots of people engaged in living a traditional lifestyle and using a marine environment as a main source of food,” Jones said. “Also, there’s a bigger implication about how people can use their marine environment effectively and we learn from these traditional people to manage our own environments.”

During last summer’s trip, the class excavated from a house floor around 3,000 years old. This summer, they’ll be returning to the site to dig deeper for more pottery pieces and features that show signs of it once being a kitchen area.

Student’s will be living in Fiji for six weeks, waking just before sunrise and spending their days excavating the site. The students will essentially work for Jones, receiving a salary through the fellowship. Even with the pay, Jones was careful in her selection of students. She had about 50 applicants from across the U.S. She chose to go with only NKU students whom she knew would be the best fit for Fiji.

“They’re going to a place that’s very remote — no Facebook, no working toilets, no running water and that’s not something every student wants to do, even if they get paid,” Jones said. “Many of these students have never been abroad before; it’s a pretty mind-blowing experience.”

The student’s attending range from anthropology and international studies majors to recent graduates.

“I wanted to broaden my horizons,” said Stephanie Zach, a May anthropology graduate.

Kendra Hein, a May international studies graduate, is eager and ready for the adventure of the trip as well.

“There’s nothing I’m not excited about,” Hein said.

Both Zach and Hein are eager to discover new things and take part in activities they’d never be able to take part in anywhere else.

“I want to be sure I do everything there is to do, doing things I couldn’t do elsewhere,” Zach said. “I hope to cover all my bases on the adventure front.”

After they return from Fiji, the students will pull together research projects and analyze the pieces they found as well as reaching out to the community to give lectures teach people about the culture of Fiji and their findings.

As a part of the grant, an education evaluation specialist will be studying the students. Once the entire project is complete, Jones and the specialist will write a paper on their findings to give advice on how to teach students outside of the classroom.

For more information on the trip and past trips, go to

Fiji trip
2013 trip photos courtesy of Helena Gaar