Meet an Ebell Scholar

from Annmarie Hehir, Scholarship Committee

August 2, 2023

Scholar Shelby Ottengheime holding a 25cm Chert Blade found onsite in Belize

For the past 104 years, dedicated students in need of monetary assistance who live and attend school in the County of Los Angeles have had the support of the Ebell/Flint Scholarship Fund. Endowed by far-sighted women who valued education and knew that students often required a helping hand, the Ebell/Flint Scholarship Fund was established for undergraduates who have completed their first year of studies. Scholarships range from $3,000 per year for two-year community college students to $5,000 per year for students attending a four-year university. Scholarships continue for a maximum of three years while the student is enrolled as an undergraduate and maintains Ebell eligibility requirements.

So, what happens to our scholars once they have graduated?  And how does the Ebell Scholarship help change students’ lives?

Scholarship committee member Annmarie Hehir spoke to one of our scholars who has just graduated: Shelby Ottengheime, who majored in Archeology at Pitzer College, Claremont.  She graduated May 2023 and has just returned from an archeological dig in Belize.

What’s been one of the most rewarding things about being in the anthropology program at Pitzer?

My advisor, Sheryl Miller, has been my mentor.  Her teaching style is like she’s telling a story.  Sheryl is an archeologist herself who has been very encouraging and has guided my coursework since I began at Pitzer.

What’s been one of the challenges about being in the program?

One of the biggest challenges has been, and continues to be, navigating the concept that archeology is inherently destructive.  “What you take out of the ground, you can’t put back.”  Learning how to build ethics around artifact removal and to exercise great care when working on that removal has been a challenge.

What’s one valuable lesson you’ve taken away from your recent field work in Belize?

This was a two-month project – and my first dig.  It was in a very remote area of the countryside.  There was a small crew, a group of indigenous workmen, and our 76-year-old field director, Maureen “Mo” Carpenter.  I was so impressed by Mo’s complete preparedness to work under very rough living conditions and her dedication to “taking care of the total environment” – humans, animals, and the dig site itself.

Back in March 2020 when you applied for the scholarship, you stated in your personal essay your desire to, “improve the ethics surrounding museum operation, education, and exhibitions.”  What do you now think are some effective ways to make these improvements?

One of the most effective ways is to include the voices connected to the materials you’re working with in the story you tell about those materials.  For example, being sensitive to a culture’s norms, of which artifacts can be grouped together, and which must be kept separate.  Archeological research is often self-driven, i.e. the researcher has a question they’re investigating, which can exclude input from the excavated culture.  “Research should include asking the people of that excavated culture, ‘What do you want to learn about your culture’s past?’”

How has the Ebell scholarship helped you be successful in your program?

Aside from the obvious financial benefit, it’s great having a community of people who think my educational goals are worthwhile; that has been very empowering. I used to be a very STEM [Science, technology, engineering and math]-focused student, and when my focus gravitated to fields such as archeology and anthropology, I took confidence from The Ebell’s investment in me to undertake new fields of study.

Congratulations on graduating last month!  What are your summer plans?

In August I’ll be participating in a three-week field school on the big island of Hawaii, restoring a coral reef using native practices and methods to restore habitat and regenerate the reef structure. Then we’re going traveling, before I go back to school to pursue my masters.

Note: Come and meet our 2023 scholars at the Scholarship Dinner on Wednesday September 6.  More details to come.

Shelby digging in the Astro pit.

Shelby holding two shell ear flares discovered onsite in Belize.