WM Alum Receives $500K Genius Grant

September 30th, 2010 by Amber Lester



William and Mary alumnus Shannon Dawdy has been named a MacArthur Fellow.

The College of William and Mary can boast a bonafide genius ranks among its alumni.

Shannon Lee Dawdy, who received her masters’ degree in anthropology from the college in 1994, was named a MacArthur Fellow on Tuesday. The MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the “genius grant,” gives recipients $500,000 in research support over five years with no strings attached.

Dawdy is one of a class of 23 MacArthur Fellows announced Tuesday by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Other recipients this year included American historian Annette Gordon-Reed, who has written about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, along with a population geneticist, a sculptor, a high school physics teacher and an entomologist.

Dawdy has served as an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago since 2004. She is particularly interested in historic preservation issues in post-Katrina New Orleans. Her recent fieldwork in New Orleans has focused on the former site of the Rising Sun Hotel and St. Antoine’s Garden behind St. Louis Cathedral, the largest archaeological excavation undertaken to date in the French Quarter. She also served as a special liaison between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office to ensure recovery efforts kept the city’s archaeological heritage in mind.

Before coming to William and Mary, Dawdy received a bachelor’s degree from Reed College. At William and Mary, she was advised by Kathleen Bragdon, a professor of anthropology who said in a press release that Dawdy was “someone we all believed would go far.” Her master’s thesis focused on the Meherrin Indians of the Virginia-North Carolina border. Since leaving William and Mary, she has collaborated with Marley Brown, a research professor in the department of anthropology.

MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations or reporting requirements, instead offering Fellows freedom to pursue their interests. Recipients are traditionally notified by phone, which is usually the first indication they’ve been considered for the award. Previous MacArthur Fellows include performer Bill Irwin, literary critic Harold Bloom, political scientist Robert Axelrod and novelist Thomas Pynchon.

“This group of Fellows, along with the more than 800 who have come before, reflects the tremendous breadth of creativity among us,” said Robert Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Foundation, in a press release. “They are explorers and risk takers, contributing to their fields and to society in innovative, impactful ways. They provide us all with inspiration and hope for the future.”

Learn more about Dawdy’s work and meet the other recipients here.

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