Dr. Karen Steelman ’98 is an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Central Arkansas. She remembers discovering her passion for archaeological chemistry at Hendrix. The liberal arts’ emphasis on broad-based education at Hendrix revealed an area of interest she didn’t know that she had.
“I started out as a history major. I have always been passionate about history and archaeology, but I love science as well. The faculty at Hendrix encouraged me to find areas of study that encompassed all of these interests,” Steelman said. “One day Dr. Liz Gron handed me a book that she had ordered for the library. It contained research papers on different aspects of archaeological chemistry. I read the whole thing and was hooked.”
Her newly discovered interest also led to Steelman’s successful application for a Watson Fellowship. Winning the national award gave her the opportunity to travel the world for a year after graduation, studying “Conservation & Museum Display” in Great Britian, Australia and Costa Rica.
Steelman connects her later success in graduate studies to the variety of skills that a liberal arts education at Hendrix gave her.
“At Hendrix, I learned the value of life-long learning. And, because of my liberal arts education, I was much more well-rounded than other students entering graduate school in chemistry,” she said. “Hendrix gave me a solid grounding in science, but also taught me how to be a better writer and researcher -- skills that are very important in a scientific career.”
Karen Steelman is a perfect example of the importance of interdisciplinary studies and the role a liberal arts institution like Hendrix can play in students’ lives. She now has a job that allows her to pursue all of her interests. “My favorite part of archaeological chemistry research is being able to explain chemistry to archaeologists and explain archaeology to chemists,” Steelman said.