In her very short time as an Assistant Professor for Sociology and Anthropology, Frances Forrest, has successfully brought forth both interesting coursework and an international research program for students at Fairfield. Professor Forrest began teaching at Fairfield in 2022.
Spearheading courses like Biological Anthropology and Biomedical Anthropology, she distinguishes herself both inside and outside of the classroom with her immense knowledge and passion for her field.
Professor Forrest has spent her academic and professional career studying human evolution within the field of zooarchaeology, meaning that she studies animal fossils found alongside human fossils at archaeological sites. Her passion for this specific field of study got her initially introduced to the international research opportunity with Koobi Fora Field School.
The Koobi Fora Field School, a research and training facility for paleoanthropology, became the center of Professor Forrest’s work as she began her role as a researcher and mentor in 2018. Since her work there began, she has traveled back four times (with any additional trips restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic) to continue her role as not just a researcher, but a present mentor for students engaging in research and training at the school.
As a mentor, she is able to help students come up with projects to study, gather the necessary data and research to examine the topic and summarize and analyze their findings for publishable, tangible results.
The Koobi Fora Field School and the work Professor Forrest does there continues to prove the experience as one of the few programs that specifically offers one-on-one student mentorship in the study of human fossil record. Through this program and Professor Forrest’s guidance, students are able to gain research experience that no other program is offering, providing the opportunity for publishable research as well as the experience and connections to aid in graduate school applications.
Professor Forrest has designed this program to specifically benefit student’s knowledge of research while also opening the doors for future research opportunities well after the trip has concluded. Besides the original support through a month-long online class before the trip begins to ensure students are comfortable and prepared, students are also offered support after the course has concluded with networking through the research they have collected.
This workshop afterwards, located in New York or Washington, D.C., is open to program alumni, and is only required for those with a fellowship. The opportunity for a fellowship allows this incredible opportunity to extend to as many Fairfield students as possible, and foster the desire for knowledge and growth our students innately share.
In continuing the emphasis on growing the skill base, knowledge and passion for research, sessions are also provided for students to discuss getting into graduate school, getting approved for grants and continuing to engage in research.
In her excitement for this program, Professor Forrest hopes to impress upon students the value of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of them. While the field school is geared towards human evolution, she emphasizes the fact that the research itself is valuable to any student interested in pursuing human biology, geology or any other research-heavy field.
What she values more for a program like this is not necessarily a lengthy resume of research experience, but rather a student with a passion for research, and the adventure that comes with it. The program provides the opportunity to interact with and become immersed in a local culture, both with the school itself and the African students on the trip as well.
Speaking of the program as a whole, Professor Forrest acknowledges the apprehension students may feel, stating that “we have students who are at all different levels, students who have never been camping before, students who have never left the country–and they’ve all been fine. In fact, they all come back saying it’s one of the best experiences of their life, leaving with lifelong friendships.”
Between the unique opportunity this program presents to enter a new culture through a hands-on research experience, and the professional and academic development that comes with it, Professor Forrest summarizes this incredible opportunity by simply stating “If students want an adventure, this is the place to go.”