Anthropology Major Wins National Scholarship Competition
- Thursday, May 9th, 2019
Ashley Gilliam of the WKU Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology is the recipient of the XLIV Senior Scholarship Award from Lambda Alpha, the national anthropology honorary society. This undergraduate scholarship is awarded annually to the top applicant selected by members of the Lambda Alpha National Executive Council. Ashley is the 2019 recipient of this prestigious national award.
This spring Ashley is graduating summa cum laude with a BA degree in anthropology (cultural anthropology concentration), a BS degree in psychological sciences, and a minor in neuroscience. Ashley has been very active in the Anthropology Program at WKU, serving as vice president of the Anthropology Club, working as an undergraduate research assistant in the department’s Ethnographic Visual Production Lab, and demonstrating pump drills at the Living Archaeology Weekend public outreach event. She is the recipient of the Outstanding Senior Anthropology Student Award for 2018-2019.
A scholar in the Mahurin Honors College at WKU, Ashley recently successfully defended her honors thesis “White-Identifying Populations’ Perceptions of Muslims in the UK and US.” She presented her honors research project at the WKU Student Research Conference, Kentucky Honors Roundtable in Lexington, Posters-at-the-Capital in Frankfort, and annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, DC. Her research, which was conducted in part during a study abroad experience in England, was supported by an international Faculty-Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) grant and other funding sources at WKU. She and her faculty mentor, assistant professor of anthropology Dr. Ashley Stinnett, are preparing a manuscript based on the research for submission to the Journal of Sociolinguistics.
Ashley’s honors thesis addressed the general research topic of how majority populations view minority groups. More specifically, she investigated how Muslims are perceived as a group by majority non-Muslim populations. The comparative research project sought to understand white-identifying populations’ perceptions of Muslims in the UK and US, using qualitative and quantitative ethnographic methodologies such as free lists, card sorts, and semi-structured interviews. The results indicate there are unconscious biases regarding Muslim populations in both countries, but there are similarities and differences in how they manifest and in what cultural attitudes or practices contribute to them.
During her time at WKU, Ashley served as a writing tutor, English as a Second Language tutor, contributing writer for The Talisman, ambassador with the Office of Scholar Development, leader in the International Student Orientation program, and member of Student Ambassadors of Service. She has distinguished herself in numerous ways in the Department of Psychological Sciences. Ashley’s record of community service includes volunteering with Hope Harbor, Warren County Refugee and Immigrant Health Services Fair, Parker Bennett Community Center Health Education Program, Girls in Science Day, and Family Enrichment Center.
The Lambda Alpha Senior Scholarship Award includes a $5,000 cash prize, plaque, and Lambda Alpha t-shirt. In addition, Ashley will be featured in the organization’s annual newsletter. A resident of Clarksville, Tennessee, Ashley plans to use the prize money for her graduate studies. She will begin a Master’s program in psychology at Brandeis University in the fall, and she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in anthropology, human evolutionary biology, human development, or psychology thereafter. Ashley also aspires to teach English abroad through the Peace Corps or a non-government organization. Her long-term career goal is to be a university professor.
The Senior Scholarship Award is a national scholarship competition for students completing baccalaureate degrees in anthropology. Academic institutions with campus chapters of Lambda Alpha are permitted to nominate one undergraduate senior each year for the national scholarship. Ashley’s application included a sample of her professional writing, her curriculum vitae, a statement of her future professional plans, letters of recommendation, and college transcripts. The paper Ashley submitted, which she researched in the Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean course with associate professor of anthropology Dr. Kate Hudepohl, is “An Argument for Medicinal and Psychotherapeutic Syncretism in the Caribbean.” It currently is under review for publication in the Lambda Alpha Journal.
Established in 1968, the purpose of Lambda Alpha is to both acknowledge and reward academic excellence. Lambda Alpha supports scholarship and research by acknowledging and honoring superior achievement in the discipline among students engaged in the study of anthropology. Superior academic performance is recognized through membership in the society. Lambda Alpha rewards academic excellence through the annual awarding of student scholarships, research grants, and student paper prizes. Over its 50-year history, a total of 239 Lambda Alpha chapters have been established at universities and colleges in the United States.
Ashley Gilliam is the first WKU student to win the celebrated Lambda Alpha Senior Scholarship Award. In 1999 an anthropology major won the now-discontinued National Dean’s List Award from Lambda Alpha. In 2005 another major was recognized with an Honorable Mention in the Senior Scholarship Award competition and her research paper was published in the Lambda Alpha Journal. In 2007 and 2008 three anthropology majors were awarded the Charles R. Jenkins Award Certificate of Distinguished Achievement in the national scholarship competition.