The 2014 Student Development Workshop

The second Student Development Workshop (SDW) was held between the 1st and the 6th of December, 2014, at the Living Landscapes Project centre, Clanwilliam, Western Cape Province. The aim of this workshop was to create an environment in which students would be able to interact and network with one another while at the same time attend a series of sessions, presented by various lecturers, on topics and issues generally not taught at universities. We also expanded the workshop this year to include a community outreach project which was held on the final day of the workshop. We as a council were thrilled with the outcome and were able to meet each of the aims we set out for this year’s workshop.

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History of the workshop

At the 2011 ASAPA conference held in Mbabane it became apparent to us (Forssman and Lotter) that overall student involvement and interaction amongst those in post-graduate archaeological courses across the country is non-existent. Students are isolated at their respective universities and are not afforded the opportunity of engaging with students studying elsewhere, except at conferences. So too did it become clear that students feel their skills as archaeologists are not being as cultivated as they need be in order to function as a full professional archaeologist later in their career.

As such, the inaugural SDW was held in November 2013. The workshop was designed to address issues most relevant to young and aspiring archaeology professionals, primarily for students who were in their final year of an undergraduate degree or those enrolled at a postgraduate level. Students were invited from universities across southern Africa for the five day workshop held near Parys in the Free State. The success of this workshop led to the establishment of the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists Student Council (student council) and entrenched the program firmly in the archaeological calendar, receiving full support from both ASAPA and the Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST), our largest funding body.

One of the most important developments from the 2013 SDW was the formation of the ASAPASC. This first-time initiative is an important development in southern African archaeology because in addition to establishing a networking outlet and an avenue for student development, we also have a student representative on the ASAPA council. We are very proud to serve on this council and feel a great honour that we are a part of this movement in archaeology. The council is co-chaired by Tim Forssman and Matt Lotter; Lu-Marie Fraser as secretary; Jacqueline Jordaan as operations and Simone Brunton as treasurer.

The 2014 Student Development Workshop

The success of the 2013 SDW and establishment of the student council formed a promising avenue for future student support. To maintain this, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts were opened, a website was setup and regular newsletters were sent to keep the student body informed on relevant information, events and funding and postgraduate opportunities. The support for the SDW and council grew and we now have a strong body of students who regularly interact with one another and share information. This success fed directly into the next SDW, which was held at the Living Landscape Project centre near Clanwilliam in the Western Cape. The centre is a community run initiative that aims to incorporate archaeological materials and exercises into the local school’s curricular, as well as train community guides, craftspeople and heritage managers (for further information please visit: http://www.cllp.uct.ac.za/index.htm).

The SDW was held at the beginning of December and was attended by 22 students, excluding the council members, from the Universities of Cape Town, Pretoria and the Witwatersrand, South Africa and the University of Botswana and the Midlands State University, Zimbabwe. It was surprising that the majority of students attending the workshop were Gauteng based – we expected more locally based students – but was a welcomed surprise because it showed the support students and their backers were giving the SDW.

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The students arrived the afternoon of the 1st of December, and were welcomed to the workshop by Matt Lotter, the co-chair of the council, who spoke about the aims of the student council and the motivation behind the SDW. The following day started off with an eye-opening account by Prof. Judith Sealy (UCT) on what to expect as a postgraduate, including topics such as funding opportunities and research proposals and concluded with a stimulating and refreshing take on human evolution and anatomy by Ms. Kerry Warren and Dr. Terry Ritzman (both UCT). That night, all students partook in a picture-quiz in which they needed to identify specific archaeological tools, sites and academics, as well as an archaeology question session and one on Indiana Jones, naturally. The winners, “the red ochre’s”, did a brilliant job and were well-deserving of their title as 2014 SDW champions. The third day of the workshop was a day of both theoretical and practical based sessions, ranging from a Stone Age archaeology discussion and practical by Dr.Alexandra Sumner (UCT), to in-the-field first aid knowledge and advice by Ms. Dalene Martins (from The South Africa first aid league). That evening we held a movie night and watched Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (an example of how not to be an archaeologist!) During the evening, another group event was scheduled, this time it was movie night.  The fourth day was fully packed with sessions including an outing to a local rock art site. The topics for the day were themed into non-academia related careers for archaeology students, and we had great presentations by Mr. Dave Halkett and Ms. Natalie Kendrick (both ACO associates), and by Dr. Wendy Black and Ms. Wilhelmina Seconna (Iziko Museum) on CRM and museum life respectively.

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On the fifth day, the eagerly awaited wildlife conservation, ecology and awareness session was held, presented by Ms. Rika Du Plessis (Cape Nature) who taught us about dealing with nature and working conscientiously with the environment. Student presentations followed Ms. Du Plessis’s session and papers were given by Christian Louw (WITS),  Pauline Chiripanhura (Midlands SU), Madeline Zhu (UCT), Robert .T Nyamushosho (UCT), Sherry Moratabatho (UB), Nicholas Zachariou (UCT), Simon Hoyte (UCT), Bongumenzi Nxumalo (UP), Stephanie-Anne Barnardt (UNISA) and Tiffany van Zyl (University of Stellenbosch). The final evening was spent around a bonfire, where awards were handed out to individuals for their outstanding contribution to the academic discussion and general atmosphere of the workshop. Our last session on the sixth day was a fascinating take on the world of underwater archaeology off the southern African coast by Mr. Jake Harding (Iziko Museum).

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The community outreach project followed the last session and was initiated through the children’s book network, an organisation that holds writing and reading workshops for children from the local community (for more information please visit: http://www.childrensbook.co.za/). A befitting end to the workshop as we were able to engage with the next generation of South Africans who might one day take up the archaeological mantle and contribute to heritage related studies within our country. It also helped the current student body realise the importance of engaging with the community when performing our own studies. 28 local children from the Clanwilliam area came to the Living Landscape and were treated to a day of fun in the sun! First up was a one on one reading session, followed by a morning filled with crafts wherein many artworks were made (and not just by the children!) This was followed by lunch, and impromptu soccer match and the children’s favourite, ice cream. It was a great way to end off the workshop. We wish to say a special thank you to the students who gave their time wholeheartedly. In addition, we also raised funds for the CBN, for future workshops. We thank the students for their donations, as well as our two corporate sponsors, Claw Boots International and UPS direct.

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Concluding remarks

First and foremost we would like to thank PAST for their generous financial and unwavering support. It was their assistance that led to its success and the organisers could not be more grateful for their dedication to not only this workshop, but to students across southern Africa. We, as a student body, look forward to working with PAST in the future and, speaking on behalf of all the students, we will strive to produce meaningful scientific results, publish our work and represent PAST as best we can. We hope that you will see the value and success of this workshop and continue to support these events in the future. Had it not been for your generous support, the workshop would not have been possible.

We would like to acknowledge the support given by the Universities of Cape Town, Pretoria and the Witwatersrand who sponsored their own student attendance; we trust that the benefit of sending your students to this workshop will become evident. Also, we thank the ASAPA council for their help and support throughout the planning phase of this workshop and over its course as well.

Additional thanks must also go to each and every speaker; your input and willingness to help out has been truly humbling and the students who attended the event have definitely learnt a whole host of new things that will ensure their success in the future. A big thank you must go to the caterers as well who worked constantly to keep everyone fed and happy.

Since this workshop there has been a certain dialogue between the organisers and students. Perhaps the following student comments sum up how the inaugural SDW event went:

Regards,

The ASAPA Student Council

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Student Feedback:

Really excellent opportunity to network and meet students from diverse backgrounds, areas, and interests; especially a good opportunity to learn about what others are working on and about their departments, which is crucial considering how far-flung they are. The diversity of sessions, topics, and types of presenters (profs, ph.d candidates, outside experts, people in the private sector, etc.) provided a rich, varied, and valuable experience. Fun, engaging, and a good balance of content and entertainment–I cannot believe how many sessions we had and how much we learned! It was a great group of people, they seemed in general to mix pretty well and get along. It was very well organized!

The most useful session was the very first one, Dr. Sealy’s explanation of norms, best practices, and the ways to think about your postgrad work and work with your supervisor. However, other lectures like Simon Hall’s and Jake’s were amazing because I literally didn’t know anything about the Iron Age (and I should!!) or marine archaeology. All in all, a wonderful experience that I think will grow and become crucial to every archaeology student in South Africa’s growth and development!

– Madeline Zhu

I would like to give a huge thank you to ASAPA as well as PAST for organizing a fantastic student development workshop. It was great to learn so much about the archaeology community we have in South Africa and to be able to network with possible future colleagues. I think it was one of my best experiences as students from different parts of the country, and other countries too, could communicate with each other as well as with lecturers and share their experiences and stories. I learnt a great deal on this endeavor regarding the different options that are available for archaeologists. I especially enjoyed the talks by Ms. Natalie Kendrick and Mr Dave Halkett on CRM. I didn’t know about CRM before the workshop and the talks really sparked my interest. I found every talk to be valuable and the messages taken will be put to good use.

I am very excited for my own future in archaeology and I definitely have ASAPA, student council and PAST for an incredible opportunity to thank. I look forward to the next student development workshop and working closely on future research with the southern African archaeology community.

– Michelle Cloete

I found the workshop stimulating, informative and fun! I liked that we got to spend quality time with students from different campuses in a relaxing environment, and also touched on subjects that are outside what we are taught in university archaeology courses – such as first aid and nature awareness. It was great too that presenters were found that could present to us on archaeology-related jobs that do not specifically fall under the ‘academic’ sphere – an aspect that often gets buried in the mix whilst we are studying. Overall, a great week and an event I will definitely attend in the future. Big thank you to the funders and the organisers!

– Nicholas Zachariou

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