Melissa Baird is the recipient of Michigan Tech’s 2021 Distinguished Educating Award
in the Affiliate Professor/Professor class.
Melissa Baird is an affiliate professor of anthropology in the Division of Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, she gained her master’s and
doctorate at the University of Oregon. Her exploration has targeted on the politics of
heritage inside the extractive zone, these kinds of as mining or liquefied natural gas assignments
and protest web-sites. She is also the current president of the Association of Vital Heritage Studies.
“Dr. Baird is a ideal case in point of the instructor scholar. She is a distinguished anthropologist
and president of her discipline’s countrywide corporation, yet she is also passionate
about her educating and a excellent advocate for involving undergraduates in exploration.
Michigan Tech is fortuitous to have her on the faculty!”
Mike Hyslop is the recipient of Michigan Tech’s 2021 Distinguished Educating Award
in the Lecturer/Professor of Exercise/Assistant Professor class.
Q: What do you do in your do the job?
MB: My do the job since 2011 has targeted on the extractive zone — the area wherever industries,
communities and ecologies converge. I am interested in how these sophisticated and fast-transferring
areas link with heritage. What do the job does heritage do? I use the term heritage do the job to refer to how heritage is taken up
to promote or protect claims.
For case in point, in my do the job in the source frontiers of Western Australia, I discovered that
industries mobilized the language of heritage, Indigenous rights and sustainability
in their company strategies. Yet, in their promotion of heritage, contested histories
and modern day concerns are offered as settled.
I established heritage do the job and the extractive zone inside the exact frame to see how heritage
is enacted and brokered by diverse actors — the corporation, the condition, communities
or activists. Whether or not it is communities occupying protest camps or researchers mobilizing
the coverage course of action, in every single case, the do the job of heritage is disclosed: It is taken up
to make claims, get legitimacy and condition coverage.
Distinguished Educating Award
Because 1982, the yearly Michigan Tech Distinguished Educating Award has been awarded in two types: Affiliate Professor/Professor and Lecturer/Professor
of Exercise/Assistant Professor. The award nomination and evaluation processes are scholar-driven
finalists are chosen primarily based on scholar ratings concerning excellent of instruction.
Winners obtain $two,500 and a plaque at an awards meal sponsored by the Office environment of
the President in the slide.
To do this, to render heritage do the job visible, I use company stories, general public data,
ethnography (interviews and participant observation of protests, for case in point) and
general public file requests to look into the certain strategies that heritage constructs,
racializes or advances extractive assignments.
For case in point, I job interview electricity researchers, agency researchers, engineers, protestors
and activists, NGOs (nongovernmental businesses) and tribal representatives. Each
has a diverse strategy and comprehending of the extractive zone.
Making use of a forensic technique provides a way to attract on my archaeological teaching to
ground truth of the matter the archaeological and cultural source stories. I have discovered that these
stories usually understate the great importance of cultural sources or forget important
oral historic or archaeological knowledge. Previously mentioned all, I am interested in obtaining my way
into the sophisticated transnational assignments and their impacts on neighborhood communities.
It is a way to mix general public engagement, social justice activism and praxis — the
house among theories and observe. And, I am also section of an NSF (Nationwide Science
Basis)-sponsored task and multidisciplinary group doing work to comprehend toxic contamination in the Lake Excellent basin.
Q: Why do you care?
MB: Extractive zones are challenging and fast-transferring spots. These types of spots are ephemeral
(believe boom and bust cities) but also unusually durable (believe toxic waste). Heritage is section of this dialogue. I have discovered that frontline communities usually use heritage to mediate the development
hurry and its impacts. And, corporations are progressively creating a company heritage
discourse that positions themselves as critical expertise generators, restricting the discursive
house and limiting discussion boards for discussion. For Indigenous or neighborhood communities, this
has resulted in their heritage remaining offered in ahistorical and apolitical strategies,
contested pasts and presents, land rights or treaties claims and environmental contexts
offered as settled.
Q: Why do other people care? Who added benefits from your do the job?
MB: For communities of connection — Indigenous, frontline and neighborhood communities —
connecting exploration to their current concerns is a single way to be engaged and it connects
activism and scholarship. It is critical to believe about how our do the job connects (or
not) and how to reframe modern day conversations about vital heritage and justice.
Q: Are there certain educating procedures/designs/philosophies that make you prosperous?
MB: My lessons crosscut traditional disciplinary boundaries. I try out to present product
that troubles learners to extend their worldview and establish vital views
of social and political concerns — to shift further than their comfort zones and to categorical
their ideas thoughtfully and plainly.
Q: What do you believe can make for a prosperous discovering practical experience?
MB: I see the classroom as a house to develop expertise collectively. I try out to supply
learners with the house and instruments to foster open conversations about the world about
them. I present possibilities to find out independently and to establish their voices via
vital investigation and contemplation.
I want learners to come upon the product for themselves and not rely only on my interpretations
or criticisms. A single technique I have discovered prosperous is to use case experiments. Situation experiments
have interaction learners to establish dilemma-fixing and selection-building techniques. I check with learners
to analyze the concerns, evaluation stakeholders and propose solutions — to delve into
their positions, tease out their contradictions and assumptions, and believe about what
the product implies to them.
For case in point, a single could use a case research on the mining catastrophe in Mount Polley, British
Columbia, or the firestorm in Paradise, California. Learners would be requested to analyze
most important and secondary knowledge, tutorial posts, media and internet sites, and critique how
concerns are framed. Where are the men and women? Who is impacted? How is this event framed?
“Learners establish expertise about stakeholders, evaluate knowledge and discussion the diverse
positions — techniques they need to have to be successful as international citizens. This technique also provides
an chance to replicate and product how to talk about controversial subjects and talk
to every single other, not at every single other.”
And it is not that these conversations are effortless — and even I can get flustered. But
I believe it is critical for learners to see that I am discovering as well. Due to the fact that is
wherever the discovering is: wherever we allow go of what we believe we know and open up to other
views and possibilities.
Q: Who (or what) impressed you to turn out to be a instructor?
MB: I see myself as section of a lineage that consists of my relatives, instructors and learners,
and pals — people who took the time to mentor and instruct, to supply a form (or firm)
word at a certain time, and to choose me up and brush me off when I fell or lost
My mentor Meg Conkey at the University of California, Berkeley, was a single of these men and women.
She was genuinely inspiring in the classroom, wherever she inspired creativeness and excellence.
Meg noticed a thing in me that I did not see — and she gave her time and energies to
assure me that, as a first-technology and reentry scholar, I had a correct to be there.
That my voice mattered. I like to believe that what she taught me and modeled is present
in the classroom right now.
Q: What possibilities does this award open up for you?
MB: I see this award as a recognition of all the important do the job of so many individuals throughout
campus. I believe about my colleagues who give so significantly of themselves.
I am psyched to be doing work on a new task with Dean (of the Graduate School) Will
Cantrell and Dr. Kat Hannum to establish mentoring pathways and grant possibilities
for underneath-resourced learners. I am also doing work with my division on a new graduate
mentoring chance — MEG: Mentoring Activities for Graduates Learners — to supply
cross-generational mentoring possibilities. And I am in the extremely early levels of a
ebook task on increased training that seeks to envision new strategies to shift sources
to align with this moment.
Q: What are the troubles you experience?
MB: I believe we have a collective obstacle. We are in a tumultuous moment — and we
are all, in some way, struggling to make perception. Instruction is a instrument of transformation
and transgression. Our learners are hunting to us to help them have the conversations
and instruments important to meet up with this moment. I am pleased to see some alterations and very good do the job
going on throughout campus (for case in point, the Advance Initiative), but I believe we have a good deal additional to do.
Our do the job is to believe via certain strategies to assistance learners and to believe about
new strategies to use our sources — to guarantee entry and equity in increased training and
to develop a various and shared house of intellectual inquiry.
Michigan Technological University is a general public exploration university launched in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is household to additional than 7,000 learners from fifty five nations about the world. Persistently rated among the very best universities in the country for return on expense, the University presents additional than 125 undergraduate and graduate diploma courses in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, small business and economics, wellbeing professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Excellent in Michigan’s Higher Peninsula, presenting year-round possibilities for outdoor adventure.