Sissel Schroeder (‘83) gives the 2018 Hoslett Memorial Lecture

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Sissel Schroeder (‘83) gives the 2018 Hoslett Memorial Lecture

Sissel Schroeder ('83) spoke on her anthropological and biological research into ancient Native Americans and their relationship to changes in climate.

Sissel Schroeder ('83) spoke on her anthropological and biological research into ancient Native Americans and their relationship to changes in climate.

Kelao Charmaine Neumbo (‘22) | Chips

Sissel Schroeder ('83) spoke on her anthropological and biological research into ancient Native Americans and their relationship to changes in climate.

Kelao Charmaine Neumbo (‘22) | Chips

Kelao Charmaine Neumbo (‘22) | Chips

Sissel Schroeder ('83) spoke on her anthropological and biological research into ancient Native Americans and their relationship to changes in climate.

Kelao Charmaine Neumbo, Staff Writer

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Luther’s biology department coordinated this year’s Hoslett Memorial Lecture as a part of the homecoming celebrations on Saturday, Oct. 27. Sissel Schroeder (‘83) presented the lecture in Valders 206.

The lecture was titled “Landscapes of the Past: Using Archaeological and Paleoenvironmental Evidence to Investigate Ancient Native Americans of the Midcontinent circa 450-1450 CE.” Students, faculty, and alums attended.

Schroeder, a professor and chair of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was grateful for the opportunity to present her findings.

“I would really like to thank you for the invitation to speak here today,” Schroeder said during the lecture. “I am truly humbled by this invitation and really honored to be here and to talk about how my educational experiences at Luther helped shape the career that I am so lucky to have.” 

Schroeder entered Luther with the goal of going to medical school but ended up adding anthropology as a second major, which contributed to her current research project.

“I added an anthropology major and I opted to do my senior thesis undertaking, a project that introduced me to the archeology in an area near St. Louis called Cahokia, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. Clair County, Illinois,” Schroeder said. “This also happens to be the largest archaeological site north of Mexico.”

She also credits the liberal arts for giving her the flexibility to pursue different interests.

“Some aspects of my recent interdisciplinary research [have] allowed me to meld my interests in biology with my interests in the archeology of ancient Native Americans,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder’s areas of focus include archaeology, historical ecology, and Eastern North America Complex Societies. She also has affiliations with the American Indian Studies Program and The Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies, Center for Culture, History, and the Environment Material Culture Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Schroeder’s lecture shifted to discuss anthropological findings on her recent collaborative paleoenvironmental and paleodemography projects in the Cahokia area that blended aspects of plant biology with archeology. The lecture discussed how human-induced changes to the environment were linked to broader climatic shifts. Schroeder also touched upon the resilience and persistence of humans in the face of great challenges that ultimately led to the political collapse and the abandonment of Cahokia.

Schroeder spoke about her struggles as woman in anthropology and encouraged women in her field to overcome challenges.

“Stand up for yourself and your rights and make sure that you have a strong support to help you stand,” Schroeder said. 

Assistant Professor of Biology Dawn Reding commended Schroeder and believes cross-specialization in multiple fields is important.

“It was important to hear her explain the route to how she got to do what she is doing so that students can see that a lot of times the speakers we invite are doing things that are very different from what they wanted to do in college,” Reding said. “Students can take these different trajectories and use their experiences at Luther as a great jumping off point to get to these opportunities.”

Nora Myint (‘22) attended the lecture for her cultural anthropology class and says the lecture sparked an interest in understanding how societies fail to thrive.

“I was so surprised to learn that, through looking at historical remains, we can learn that the success of a thriving community is not only dependent of the climate around [us], but also the government structures that are in place,” Myint said.

Myint also emphasized the importance of having more women in the field of anthropology.

“Having a negative stigma against women who want to do field work like Schroeder experienced could have truly been a loss to the field of anthropology,” Myint said. “Why waste human resources if there is a woman who [is] more than willing and able to do the job that her male counterparts may not possess the expertise to do?”

Lori Hilmer (‘83) was delighted with the lecture.

“[Schroeder] did a great job talking about ancient people and how that ties into our world today,” Hilmer said. “We were classmates in Luther and it was really great to see how far she has come in her career.”

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