Anthropology welcomes bioarchaeologist

Love of teaching: Ashley Maxwell is a bioarchaeologist. Maxwell has cultivated a strong joy for helping students succeed. 

Love of teaching: Ashley Maxwell is a bioarchaeologist. Maxwell has cultivated a strong joy for helping students succeed. 

Melissa Kern

Ashley Maxwell is a bioarchaeologist whose research at Washburn University consists of analyzing fossilized teeth and bone fragments to help understand and determine food and migration patterns.

Maxwell has taught anthropology and forensic science at Washburn University since spring 2019She currently teaches three courses at Washburn, Cultural Anthropology, Biological Anthropology and Intro to Forensic Science. Before coming to Washburn, Maxwell was an instructor of Anthropology at Hillsborough Community College from 2014-2018.

Maxwell planned to teach secondary education until she took a cultural anthropology class during her undergrad at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and fell in love. While her desire to teach didn’t change, her major and the age of the students she would come to teach did, and she graduated with a B.A. in anthropology. She then earned a M.A. in anthropology from North Carolina State University at Raleigh and her doctorate of philosophy from the University of South Florida.

“Maxwell is very amenable and is a fun person to be around.” said Holly Long, anthropology major. 

For Maxwell her most important lecture is over race and human variation. Many students coming into undergraduate anthropology courses don’t know that race does not exist biologically. By teaching students this fact Maxwell hopes to help eliminate biases that students may hold.  

“One of the best things about Maxwell is she does a fantastic job of combining biological anthropology with cultural anthropology in a way that keeps students engaged,” said David Miller, assistant professor of Anthropology. 

You don’t know what works until you try it. Maxwell’s teaching methods are constantly evolving to fit each class. “Student evaluations are very important, and the feedback received each semester helps me determine what works best for students,” said Maxwell.

The most rewarding part of teaching is seeing students who at the beginning of the semester are struggling or are not engaged in discussions improve and begin to discuss material with the class as the semester goes on,” said Maxwell. She believes that the best way to foster this growth is to “create a comfortable environment, which starts with me.”  

Along with this, students need to understand respect is important.  

It can be difficult to teach a course and try to micromanage behaviors all at once. Cell phones are the main issue. My view is you’re paying to take my class, so if you are on your phone or not paying attention, you’re setting yourself up for failure and wasting your own money,” said Maxwell.

Edited by Brianna Smith, Jackson Woods, Adam White