Students Lunch with Montgomery Fellow, Daniel Potts

On May 13, 2014 by Grad Forum

potts_thumbnailOn Wednesday, April 23, graduate students from various departments met over lunch with the Kenneth ’25 and Harle Montgomery Fellow, archeologist Daniel T. Potts. Established in 1977, the Montgomery Endowment invites exceptional individuals to Dartmouth to contribute to the intellectual and cultural enrichment of the community. Potts’ wife, Hildreth Potts (an accomplished sculptor and potter), was also present at the luncheon that took place at the Montgomery House on Rope Ferry Road.

Christianne Hardy Wohlforth, the Montgomery Fellows Program Director, offered the event’s opening remarks. She commented, “The Montgomery Fellows Program connects Dartmouth graduate students with distinguished fellows who are often not the kind of scientist or scholar that most of them work with. It serves to remind students that they have much to contribute beyond their field.”

Potts, who is a professor of ancient Near Eastern archaeology and history at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, commenced the conversation by describing his personal journey to a career in archeology. He discussed the ways in which he has succeeded in bringing together his propensity for a generalist approach to research and scholarship, and the academic need to possess expertise. Potts specializes in the study of the politico-cultural relations between Iran, Mesopotamia, the Arabian Peninsula, and their neighbors.

The subsequent conversation took the form of an informal question and answer session, in which Potts emphasized the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of contemporary archeological research. Further, he addressed a number of pertinent issues confronted by modern archeologists. These include facing local political challenges while conducting fieldwork and the limited access to funding as a consequence of increasing political focus on the hard sciences around the world.

Graduate student, Sebastian Frank (Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences), noted, “I was impressed with Professor Potts’ emphasis on the broader picture in research. While it may seem safer to focus on a particular niche, engaging with results from other research directions ultimately leads to more holistic outcomes.” Another attendee, Kevin Hainline (Department of Physics and Astronomy), observed, “My favorite point that Professor Potts made was that we should not be disheartened that we will never know everything about an ancient culture. Further, we should have the courage to stop when there isn’t evidence to support extraordinary claims. Every branch of science could learn from that sentiment.”

Hainline added a concluding remark that summed up the event well: “It was an enjoyable afternoon, and I am glad that Dartmouth College sponsors such opportunities to meet with such distinguished scientists.”

by Meg Menon

photo by Lars Blackmore

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