Meet Samantha Riley
Samantha Riley is a second-year Master of Arts in Applied Anthropology student in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. During Sam’s first academic year in her graduate program (2020–2021), she participated in the Community Engagement Associate (CEA) Program under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Hyatt, professor of anthropology. The CEA Program employs students under the mentorship of faculty and staff to provide support for courses, programs, or projects that advance the community engagement mission of IUPUI.
As a CEA, Sam assisted Dr. Hyatt’s Urban Anthropology course. Sam and Dr. Hyatt applied the learning outcome of the course and incorporated a real-world situation that was happening at the time, the COVID-19 pandemic, into the course curriculum. In the course, students actively researched past epidemics and how they affected cities’ infrastructure to predict what cities will look like post COVID-19.
Sam and Dr. Hyatt knew they wanted to showcase their students’ work, but they did not know how to do so with IUPUI being mostly remote. After some research and inspiration from other universities and other faculty members, they pinpointed web presence as their goal. They set their sight on building a website to display their Urban Anthropology students’ work in hopes of documenting this defining period in history and spreading important and thought-provoking topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Sam has never built a website before, she learned how to navigate WordPress quickly through her own troubleshooting and built covidandthecity.org to bring her mentor’s and her vision to the web. The website highlights the students’ bios, their individual experiences with the pandemic, their relationship with the city before and during the pandemic, and their perception of what the city will look like post-pandemic.
Sam is currently working at the Indianapolis VA Medical Center and has used the website building skills she learned in her CEA project to build a website for her study at the medical center. During this academic year, she is looking forward to adding new skills to her tool kit, wrapping up her thesis, and assisting with Dr. Hyatt’s ethnographic field course in spring 2022 under the CEA program.
Q & A with Sam
Before working on this project, I thought I was a slow learner. However, when I was building the website through WordPress, I had to learn that skill on the fly. I overcame that hurdle relatively quickly and picked up the skills I needed as I worked on the project.
I looked through literature, websites, and resources to send to students, which helped them with their own research projects for the class. I also reached out to guest speakers to bring to our class Zoom calls. I also worked on the Covid and the City website.
Dr. Hyatt served as a mentor for the CEA program and as my graduate advisor. She provided me with a lot of support, resources, and ideas. We had a collaborative approach on my tasks and projects. I learned a lot from her help and support.
At first, I thought this would be difficult to add on top of my graduate coursework. I learned that being a CEA added to my course learning and expanded my knowledge of this field. It was also a wonderful way to build a relationship with faculty and staff within my field.