Indiana State University Newsroom

Anthropology student to intern at Smithsonian

April 2, 2012

This summer as Shannon Rosser analyzes shellfish, her childhood dream will become a reality.

"Working at the Smithsonian has been a dream since I was a kid," she said. "Or, I wanted to be Indiana Jones."

Rosser screamed when, sitting in Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library, she opened an email stating she had been selected to spend three months this summer at the Smithsonian Institution. She will intern at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. through the National Historic Research Experiences program.

Rosser, a junior anthropology and language studies major from Kansas City, Kan., will analyze archaeological shellfish remains from sites in the Rhode River estuary and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland. Her goal will be to reconstruct changes in how humans used shellfish during the last 3,000 years. She also will conduct experiments into the preservation of archaeological materials and to document Native American harvesting and processing of shellfish.

With an interest in prehistoric cultures, Rosser knows what she learns at the Smithsonian won't end when she walks out the doors at the end of the summer.

"I'm going to be able to use that in the future," she said.

She hopes to conduct research in Middle East as her interest lies in studying the area in ancient times during the rise of civilization. To aid her in that, she's studying Arabic and plans to learn Akkadian, the language of ancient Babylonians so she can translate ancient cultural clues.

Since a child, Rosser has enjoyed learning about the past and cultures that passed through ancient times. The more she learns about a past people, the more connected she feels.

"The more you learn about it, humans haven't changed that much, except through technology," she said. "We like to think we're all sophisticated and civilized, but we're not. We're the same old thing."

Rosser learned about the Smithsonian internship through the McNair Graduate Opportunity Program, which helps low-income, first-generation college students prepare for graduate school with faculty mentors, research projects and lectures.

"I'll be the first person in my family to graduate from college and go to graduate school," Rosser said.

She credited being a McNair Scholar with helping her achieve her goals.

"It's a good support program," she said. "It has been good to have faculty and fellow students say, ‘Yes, you can, you can do this.'"

Now, she hopes the internship is the beginning of more great things.

"I'm humbled by the opportunity and grateful for the people who helped make it happen," she said.

Photo: Rosser sifts through dirt at an archaeological field site in Terre Haute. ISU Photo

Contact/Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or