UH Manoa graduate Alexandra McDougle selected as Luce Scholar

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Lisa Shirota, (808) 956-7352
Communications Director, College of Social Sciences, Office of the Dean
Posted: Feb 18, 2016

Alexandra McDougle crosses a landslide while traveling through the Ifugao Rice Terraces.
Alexandra McDougle crosses a landslide while traveling through the Ifugao Rice Terraces.
Alexandra McDougle (center front) during the 2014 archaeological field season.
Alexandra McDougle (center front) during the 2014 archaeological field season.

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa alumna Alexandra McDougle, a 2015 graduate from the Department of Anthropology in the College of Social Sciences, has been named one of the 2016 Luce Scholars. Selected from a field of approximately 175 nominees nationwide, McDougle is the first Luce Scholar nominated by UH Mānoa and is the first selectee in the program’s history with a physical anthropology background.

The Luce Scholars Program is a national fellowship program that was established in 1974 by the Henry Luce Foundation of New York City. The program, which identifies promising young leaders for a yearlong experience of working in Asia, is designed to enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders of American Society. Seventy-five top universities and colleges in the United States are invited each year to nominate up to three candidates per campus, with a total of 15 to 20 Luce Scholars selected from the pool.

McDougle was drawn by the Luce Scholar Program’s focus on developing future leaders. “By actively creating a space for women and minorities in academia, I make room for the future anthropologists and leaders who will follow me. My commitment to increasing diversity and inspiring change are in line with the Luce Foundation’s mission to bring important ideas to the center of American life and strengthening international understanding. The Luce Foundation will give me the opportunity to represent the complexities of the modern day American leader,” said McDougle.

An understanding of diversity and inequality to what constitutes a good leader is only part of what drives McDougle. She also hopes to bring her training to bear on the interplay between biology and culture, and ensure that stories are told as objectively and as honestly as possible.

McDougle, whose long-term professional goal is to become a forensic archaeologist, built her skills on fieldwork in the Philippines. Funded by the UH Mānoa Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, her fieldwork involved the study of skulls of juvenile skeletons in the Ifugao region. McDougle graduated in spring 2015 with High Honors in Anthropology, under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Pietrusewsky and graduate student Adam Lauer.

Aside from her archaeological studies in the Philippines, she also participated in a biomedical studies program under the direction of Dr. David Haymer; the excavation of a North Shore field school focused on an ancient Hawaiian temple ground; and an outreach and archival project on the Honouliuli Internment Camp site, a World War II internment camp in Hawai‘i. At Honouliuli, she volunteered as a tour guide to lead groups of tourists, high school students and past relatives of internees, in order to raise awareness of the presence of the camp and the ongoing process of preservation. The combination of community outreach and newly unearthed empirical evidence led to a reform of the Hawaii Public Education standards.

Currently, McDougle is participating in a field experience in the island of Betio in the Republic of Kirbati with History Flight, a non-profit organization that seeks to locate and recover fallen U.S. military personnel. In June, she will leave for one-week training sessions in New York and San Francisco, respectively. Upon completion of the training, she will be placed in Asia. She hopes to be placed in Vietnam and Cambodia, where the field of Southeast Asian archaeology is growing, and where she hopes she can participate in the excavation of postwar civilian remains in the “killing fields” for proper burial.

Along with this formative experience, McDougle is excited about what the Luce Scholar Program means for her. “It’s a year to go out and try new things. A year to go out and find yourself.  Learning about different Asian cultures is a priority for Luce Scholars. We are encouraged to travel to other Asian countries, to experience modern day Asia and to bring these ideas to the center of American life,” she added.

“Alexandra is a wonderful example of type of students within the College of Social Sciences. Like many of her peers, she is bold and engaged. We are proud of her achievements, and even prouder that her potential is being recognized on a national level. This is the first year that the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa was invited to nominate students to the Luce Scholars Program. For Alexandra to be selected as one of this year’s awardees is a testament to the tremendous value she brings to her field of study,” said Denise Eby Konan, dean of the College of Social Sciences.

Established in 1934, the Department of Anthropology is committed to the study of human social, cultural, and biological diversity. Students explore and develop a global understanding of human social, cultural, and biological change through comparative, holistic studies of communities and regions. Specializations include applied archaeology, ecological anthropology, and medical anthropology, with a particular focus in Asia and the Pacific. The department’s programs encourage the development of essential skills such as critical thinking, communication, self-direction, expression, creativity, global awareness and team dynamics.

Marked by leadership, excellence and innovation, the College of Social Sciences (CSS) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa provides students with a culturally diverse experience that transforms them into bold, engaged global citizens who affect change, break down barriers, touch lives and succeed in a multi-cultural context. Its student-centered environment id dedicated to providing students with a vibrant academic climate that affords exciting, intense interaction among students and faculty as they address fundamental questions about human behavior. Featuring outstanding scholarship through internships, active and service learning approaches to teaching, and an international focus particularly in the Asia Pacific region, it prepares students to become leaders in public and private enterprises throughout Hawai‘i and Asia.