Five Kent State Experimental Archaeology Graduates Earn Full Rides to Grad Schools

Sometimes it just takes a small spark to ignite a fire within you.

For Anna Mika of Parma, Ohio, who started as a geology major her freshman year at Kent State University and switched to anthropology the following year, that spark came in 2017 while taking an anthropology course called North America’s Ice Aged Hunters, taught by Metin I. Eren, Ph.D., associate professor and director of archaeology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She said that course changed her perspective on everything.  

At the time, Mika probably couldn’t have imagined that spark leading her to being named one of just 25 Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars who will attend the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom on a full-ride scholarship. She received the award thanks to a very successful academic and research career at Kent State, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 2019 and her master’s degree in 2022.

“The Harding program was established in February 2019 thanks to an extraordinarily generous donation from the David and Claudia Harding Foundation, the biggest single gift made to a university in the U.K. by a British philanthropist,” the University of Cambridge website states.

“The thing about Anna is this person shows up in my class who I’ve never seen before,” Eren said. “By the end of the semester, there was just one person who had an over 100% grade in the class, and it was this quiet student who didn’t say a lot during the semester, just because she is quiet by nature. I’m thinking … who is this? This person needs to join the lab! So, it was fortuitous.”

When Mika first joined the lab group, she measured artifacts and conducted morphometrics, the quantitative analysis of form, including shape and size. That work then translated into a study on Madison and Levanna small stone points for arrowheads commonly flint knapped and used during the Woodland period (A.D. 600-1600). She then did a comparative study, which revealed that point sizes were decreasing, and becoming more lethal, in conjunction with the increase in warfare and hunting. 

Mika also studied other topics in the lab, including ceramics, limestone and grit-tempered pottery, and she worked on surface surveys and excavations at sites, including Berlin Lake, Jackson Farm and Paleo Crossing near Medina, Ohio. For her master’s thesis, she experimented with and studied the functional capabilities of Clovis (prehistoric Paleoamerican) knives in terms of cutting efficiency.   

At the University of Cambridge, Mika hopes to expand her knowledge of cutting efficiencies, ergonomics and computer modeling of flake (stone fragments) technologies.

“Experimental archaeology is where I want to be,” Mika said. “There are very few opportunities in the world that would grant me that type of experience, so I’m very happy that with both Kent State, and now going on to Cambridge, I’ll get to continue that work.”

Mika is just one of five success stories that the Experimental Archaeology Lab group, led by Eren and Assistant Professor Michelle Bebber, Ph.D., shared recently. Ashley Rutkoski, a native of Groveport, Ohio, earned her master’s degree in 2019 and will attend the University of Florida and pursue a doctorate. Dan Wilcox of Burlington, Connecticut, earned his master’s degree and will attend the University of Albany and pursue a doctorate. Honors student Nicholas Gala, a native of Geneva, Ohio, earned his bachelor’s degree and will pursue a master’s degree at the University of Tulsa. Grace Conrad of Medina, Ohio, who also graduated with honors, earned her bachelor’s degree and will pursue a doctorate at The Ohio State University.  

To read the full story featuring all five students and to watch videos about each student, visit

“We’ve had a banner year,” Eren said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to have another year where we have five people get full rides to top graduate programs. That’s a testament to just how special this group of hard-working and brilliant students are, and all of Kent State should be proud of these archaeology students.

“Not only are they all successful, but they did it during the worst time to be in college ever (during the COVID-19 pandemic),” Eren continued. “They all essentially lost a full year in the lab. Despite that, we haven’t had as many students publish as much. So, that is just a testament to how much they’ve worked outside the lab to pursue their dreams, so their success is their own.”   

Kent State is ranked as an R1 research institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which is the highest recognition that doctoral universities can receive, affirming Kent State’s place as an elite research institution along with Yale, Harvard and the University of California-Berkeley.

For more information about Kent State’s Experimental Archaeology Lab, visit

For more information about Kent State’s Department of Anthropology, visit

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Photo Caption:
Anna Mika of Parma, Ohio, stands in Kent State University’s Experimental Archaeology Lab in Lowry Hall.

Media Contacts:
Jim Maxwell,, 330-672-8028
Metin Eren,, 330-672-4363

POSTED: Tuesday, August 9, 2022 02:18 PM
UPDATED: Thursday, June 13, 2024 04:27 AM
Jim Maxwell