This month, the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) held its annual meeting in San Diego, CA. Widely regarded as the most important meeting for scholars of biblical and Near Eastern archaeology, the ASOR meeting is a great place to meet academics from around the world and hear the latest developments in the field. Mostly attended by professors and Ph.D. students, it’s uncommon to see an undergraduate roaming the exhibition halls. However, thanks to support from the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and Dr. Beth Alpert Nakhai, one UA senior was given the chance to present her research and bring a new dimension to her Judaic Studies education.
Valerie Schlegel is a senior majoring in Judaic Studies, with minors in Middle Eastern and North African Studies and Religious Studies. Valerie is completing her Senior Honors Thesis on the topic of women in the field of archaeology. After taking a class from Dr. Beth Alpert Nakhai on Women in Ancient Israel, she realized that her research interests closely aligned with those of her professor. Dr. Nakhai is the head of ASOR’s Initiative on the Status of Women, which is working to quantify and promote women’s involvement in ASOR, as well as address issues of sexual harassment on archaeological digs. Nakhai is an associate professor of Judaic Studies and the acting head of the department. She regularly teaches classes on Iron Age Israel, Archaeology and the Bible, Women in Ancient Israel, and Biblical Hebrew.
In the spring, Dr. Nakhai invited Valerie to complete an independent study under her supervision, for which Valerie helped collect and analyze data for one of Nakhai’s own projects for ASOR. Inspired by this experience, Valerie decided to further her research on women in archaeology for her Senior Honors Thesis. As part of Nakhai’s research on the status of women in archaeology, Valerie reported the number of women who have served as dig directors since the establishment of ASOR’s Committee on Archaeological Research and Policy in 1967.
“It’s been quite an interesting experience researching women’s representation in archaeology. While the numbers are growing, it’s nowhere near the parity we are looking for, but I am very happy to see improvement.” Valerie said.
On the first day of the ASOR meeting, Dr. Nakhai chaired a panel she had organized, entitled “Women at Work: Making One’s Way in the Field of Near Eastern Studies.” The panel included a dual presentation with UA alum Prof. Jennie Ebeling, and Prof. Leanne Pace about women’s inclusion in ASOR publications; Barbara Porter discussing her experiences being the director of the ASOR-affiliated center in Jordan, and Valerie’s presentation of her senior thesis. Dr. Nakhai concluded the panel with the results of her Survey on Field Safety. Even though she was one of the only undergraduate students in the room, Valerie delivered her research confidently, and led an active discussion about women’s positions as dig directors afterwards.
“This was such an amazing experience to not only present at such a prestigious event, but to be able to attend such stimulating talks and interact with such renowned professors. I am more than grateful to have been able to attend this event and am very thankful to the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies who made it possible for me to attend this event,” Valerie said.
In a large public university like the University of Arizona, it’s rare for undergraduates to have the opportunity to present original research, network, and attend such a well-known professional conference. The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies works hard to support and inspire all students, pushing them to take their studies outside of the classroom.