Melissa Baird is the recipient of Michigan Tech’s 2021 Distinguished Instructing Award
in the Affiliate Professor/Professor classification.
Melissa Baird is an affiliate professor of anthropology in the Office 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 investigation has centered on the politics of
heritage inside the extractive zone, these types of as mining or liquefied organic fuel tasks
and protest websites. She is also the present-day president of the Affiliation of Crucial Heritage Studies.
“Dr. Baird is a fantastic example of the instructor scholar. She is a distinguished anthropologist
and president of her discipline’s national business, still she is also passionate
about her teaching and a great advocate for involving undergraduates in investigation.
Michigan Tech is fortunate to have her on the faculty!”
Mike Hyslop is the recipient of Michigan Tech’s 2021 Distinguished Instructing Award
in the Lecturer/Professor of Practice/Assistant Professor classification.
Q: What do you do in your perform?
MB: My perform due to the fact 2011 has centered on the extractive zone — the location in which industries,
communities and ecologies converge. I am intrigued in how these complicated and quick-moving
areas hook up with heritage. What perform does heritage do? I use the term heritage perform to refer to how heritage is taken up
to endorse or defend promises.
For example, in my perform in the resource frontiers of Western Australia, I found that
industries mobilized the language of heritage, Indigenous legal rights and sustainability
in their corporate campaigns. Nevertheless, in their advertising of heritage, contested histories
and present-day challenges are offered as fixed.
I set heritage perform and the extractive zone inside the same frame to see how heritage
is enacted and brokered by various actors — the corporation, the condition, communities
or activists. No matter whether it is communities occupying protest camps or experts mobilizing
the coverage system, in every single situation, the perform of heritage is disclosed: It is taken up
to make promises, attain legitimacy and condition coverage.
Distinguished Instructing Award
Since 1982, the once-a-year Michigan Tech Distinguished Instructing Award has been awarded in two categories: Affiliate Professor/Professor and Lecturer/Professor
of Practice/Assistant Professor. The award nomination and evaluation procedures are student-driven
finalists are selected based on student ratings about top quality of instruction.
Winners get $2,five hundred and a plaque at an awards dinner sponsored by the Office environment of
the President in the drop.
To do this, to render heritage perform obvious, I use corporate stories, general public records,
ethnography (interviews and participant observation of protests, for example) and
general public report requests to examine the particular strategies that heritage constructs,
racializes or improvements extractive tasks.
For example, I interview electricity scientists, company experts, engineers, protestors
and activists, NGOs (nongovernmental companies) and tribal associates. Each individual
has a various thought and understanding of the extractive zone.
Working with a forensic strategy provides a way to draw on my archaeological education to
ground reality the archaeological and cultural resource stories. I have found that these
stories frequently understate the great importance of cultural resources or overlook critical
oral historic or archaeological details. Previously mentioned all, I am intrigued in acquiring my way
into the complicated transnational tasks and their impacts on nearby communities.
It is a way to blend general public engagement, social justice activism and praxis — the
space involving theories and practice. And, I am also component of an NSF (National Science
Foundation)-sponsored project and multidisciplinary crew doing the job to understand toxic contamination in the Lake Superior basin.
Q: Why do you treatment?
MB: Extractive zones are intricate and quick-moving locations. These kinds of locations are ephemeral
(imagine increase and bust cities) but also unusually tough (imagine toxic waste). Heritage is component of this conversation. I have found that frontline communities frequently use heritage to mediate the improvement
hurry and its impacts. And, businesses are ever more establishing a corporate heritage
discourse that positions by themselves as important understanding turbines, restricting the discursive
space and proscribing forums for discussion. For Indigenous or nearby communities, this
has resulted in their heritage becoming offered in ahistorical and apolitical strategies,
contested pasts and offers, land legal rights or treaties promises and environmental contexts
offered as fixed.
Q: Why do other individuals treatment? Who positive aspects from your perform?
MB: For communities of relationship — Indigenous, frontline and nearby communities —
connecting investigation to their present-day worries is a single way to be engaged and it connects
activism and scholarship. It is important to imagine about how our perform connects (or
not) and how to reframe present-day discussions about essential heritage and justice.
Q: Are there particular teaching solutions/kinds/philosophies that make you thriving?
MB: My lessons crosscut common disciplinary boundaries. I try out to current materials
that issues learners to broaden their worldview and produce essential views
of social and political challenges — to transfer past their convenience zones and to categorical
their thoughts thoughtfully and evidently.
Q: What do you imagine will make for a thriving mastering expertise?
MB: I see the classroom as a space to create understanding collectively. I try out to present
learners with the space and tools to foster open discussions about the planet about
them. I current alternatives to master independently and to produce their voices by way of
essential assessment and contemplation.
I want learners to come upon the materials for by themselves and not rely only on my interpretations
or criticisms. One particular strategy I have found thriving is to use situation studies. Case studies
interact learners to produce trouble-resolving and final decision-creating competencies. I question learners
to evaluate the challenges, evaluation stakeholders and advise alternatives — to delve into
their positions, tease out their contradictions and assumptions, and imagine about what
the materials implies to them.
For example, a single could use a situation examine on the mining catastrophe in Mount Polley, British
Columbia, or the firestorm in Paradise, California. Pupils would be questioned to evaluate
principal and secondary details, tutorial content articles, media and internet websites, and critique how
challenges are framed. In which are the folks? Who is impacted? How is this party framed?
“Pupils produce understanding about stakeholders, assess details and discussion the various
positions — competencies they need to have to thrive as world wide citizens. This strategy also provides
an possibility to mirror and model how to talk about controversial matters and talk
to every single other, not at every single other.”
And it is not that these discussions are effortless — and even I can get flustered. But
I imagine it is important for learners to see that I am mastering too. For the reason that that is
in which the mastering is: in which we enable go of what we imagine we know and open up to other
views and options.
Q: Who (or what) influenced you to develop into a instructor?
MB: I see myself as component of a lineage that incorporates my family, teachers and learners,
and mates — individuals who took the time to mentor and instruct, to present a variety (or business)
word at a particular time, and to decide me up and brush me off when I fell or shed
My mentor Meg Conkey at the University of California, Berkeley, was a single of these folks.
She was really inspiring in the classroom, in which she encouraged creative imagination 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-generation and reentry student, I had a proper to be there.
That my voice mattered. I like to imagine that what she taught me and modeled is current
in the classroom today.
Q: What alternatives does this award open up for you?
MB: I see this award as a recognition of all the critical perform of so quite a few individuals across
campus. I imagine about my colleagues who give so substantially of by themselves.
I am energized to be doing the job on a new project with Dean (of the Graduate University) Will
Cantrell and Dr. Kat Hannum to produce mentoring pathways and grant alternatives
for beneath-resourced learners. I am also doing the job with my office on a new graduate
mentoring possibility — MEG: Mentoring Ordeals for Graduates Pupils — to present
cross-generational mentoring alternatives. And I am in the very early levels of a
book project on greater training that seeks to visualize new strategies to change resources
to align with this minute.
Q: What are the issues you deal with?
MB: I imagine we have a collective challenge. We are in a tumultuous minute — and we
are all, in some way, battling to make sense. Schooling is a instrument of transformation
and transgression. Our learners are hunting to us to assist them have the discussions
and tools needed to fulfill this minute. I am happy to see some adjustments and very good perform
likely on across campus (for example, the Advance Initiative), but I imagine we have a lot more to do.
Our perform is to imagine by way of particular strategies to assistance learners and to imagine about
new strategies to use our resources — to make sure access and equity in greater training and
to create a varied and shared space of intellectual inquiry.
Michigan Technological University is a general public investigation university started in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is dwelling to more than 7,000 learners from fifty five nations about the planet. Persistently ranked amid the very best universities in the place for return on financial investment, the University gives more than 125 undergraduate and graduate diploma packages in science and technological know-how, engineering, computing, forestry, business enterprise and economics, well being professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is positioned just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offering 12 months-spherical alternatives for outside adventure.