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July 3, 2018
In the World

Preserving the Past

Latest Benco Award Winner Reflects Power of Wittenberg's Archaeology Program

For Abigail Fraker '19, pursuing a unique research experience in Italy is making for an exciting summer for the Westerville, Ohio, native.   

A history major with minors in pre-modern and ancient world studies (PAST) and archaeology, Fraker earned admission to an elite study-abroad program at the Museo Egizio or Museum of Egyptology in Turin, Italy.  The June 23-July 29 program is sponsored by the Institute of Field Research (IFR), an organization created to bring archaeological field schools to students. 

While there, Fraker will learn how to work with textiles and ceramics and other artifacts usually found in museums, as well as how best to present these artifacts and what the behind-the-scenes work at a museum really entails.

“While looking at artifacts in the museum, I will get to learn specific techniques in preservation and museology such as photography, archaeometric analysis and experimental archaeology. I will be working with students from all over the world while getting to learn more about Egyptian culture and museum work in one of the most beautiful countries in the world! I'm beyond excited."

This study-abroad opportunity was made possible for Fraker through the Nancy L. Benco Archaeological Research Fund award. Fraker was one of three students to receive the award to help with expenses. Paige Narciso, class of 2019, and Danielle Hurley, class of 2019, were also recipients. 

The scholarship was created by alumna Dr. Nancy L. Benco, class of 1966 and a professional archaeologist, to help fund history majors and minors who wish to study archaeology and the human past. The purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to the Wittenberg History Department and archaeology program to promote the study and appreciation of archaeology at the university through student research, fieldwork and learning experiences for undergraduates interested in the human past around the globe. Learn more about the fund here.

Fraker is not the first Wittenberg student to earn the opportunity at the Museum of Egyptology. 

“I knew (alums) Caitlin Lobl ’16 and Hannah McCartney ’18 who both won the Nancy Benco award in past years, and I have always looked up to them and wanted to be able to have the same chance of winning the award,” Fraker said. “I nearly fell over when I found out that I had won the award. I was extremely grateful and excited. I have never won anything like this before, so it was definitely a dream come true to have my name announced as one of the recipients of this incredible award. I am thankful to Nancy Benco and the incredible history department that we have here on campus for even allowing me to be a part of something so amazing as this.”  

Fraker said that Dr. Darlene L. Brooks Hedstrom, the Kenneth E. Wray Chair in the Humanities, professor and chair of history, and director of archaeology at Wittenberg, heavily promotes the IFR program to her students.  

“I knew all about the institute and was told early on in college that I could apply for these programs - programs I would have never known existed if it wasn't for her,” Fraker said. “She has always been extremely encouraging of her students and gave me enough confidence to apply for the program and get accepted. I'm hoping this program will give me the experience I need for my future career and more.” 

Fraker’s career plans currently include heading to California the summer after she graduates to visit and apply for the University of California, Los Angeles archaeology master’s to doctorate program. 

“I want to work in a museum, possibly in Los Angeles or abroad in England or anywhere in Europe really,” she said. “I would love to alternate museum work and actual excavation work. I am still considering getting my diving license in order to work in underwater archaeology. I have many ideas of what I would like to do and having this field school, combined with the prior experience I've had with the archaeology program here at Wittenberg, will help me get wherever I need to go. 

“Wittenberg has always been incredibly outstanding when it comes to academics, and the history and archaeology departments here have really helped provide me with the experience, knowledge and confidence that I need to pursue grad school and a career in the future,” she added. “I have had opportunities to take amazing archaeology and history classes, participate in a field school here at Wittenberg where I was able to dig at our local site, be an SI (supplemental instructor) for an archaeology class, have lunch with many famous archaeologists, and even use my community service to work at a local Heritage Center to work with artifacts and archives. Dr. Brooks Hedstrom even invited me and four others to attend an annual SHA Conference (Society of Historical Archaeology) with her where we were able to make contacts and volunteer the following year. Thanks to these experiences from Wittenberg, I am very prepared for this program and my future as well.” 

“Abbey’s passion for archaeology and her keen appreciation for detail is what makes her an excellent recipient for the Benco award. She exhibits the type of care for material remains and excavation that will serve her well as she moves into a museum setting. In addition, her willingness to participate in the Ethics Bowl at the SHA conference in 2017 shows her commitment to the field and the preservation of the past. It is truly a pleasure to see Abbey adding to her credentials in Egyptology with her placement in the Turin Museum program.” 

“Wittenberg continues to have 100 percent success in acceptance of our students into the IFR programs,” Brooks Hedstrom added. “Last year, Emmy Higgins ’16 participated in the Turin Museum program with IFR, and this year Abbey will be joined by Whitney Yarbourough ’15, who also shares a love of Egyptology. I wish I could be there to work with Abbey and Whitney; they are exceptional women with great promise in the field of archaeology.” 

During her time at Wittenberg, Fraker has been involved in Student Senate as a Green Senator, was president of the Green Club on campus in 2017, is a member and past vice president of the Archaeology Club, a member of the History Club, a member of the Sustainability Task Force and volunteered for Union Board her freshman year. She is also a member of Alpha Delta Pi, is an SI for the current Archaeology 103 class, and works in Dining Services.

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

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A nationally ranked university for the liberal arts and sciences affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wittenberg University has repeatedly been ranked throughout the years by the Princeton Review for the quality of its teaching and faculty, including 11th in the nation for "Best Classroom Experience" and 15th in the category "Professors Get High Marks" in the 2011 edition of Princeton's annual Best Colleges guide. Most recently, Wittenberg earned the No. 4 spot in the category of "Most Accessible Professors." Wittenberg appeared in the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges in 2013 and again in 2015. Additionally, Wittenberg currently has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any other four-year institution in the state, and has been recognized nationally for excellence in service and athletics.

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