Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian civilization, from art to literature to religion to history. A well-established academic field, western culture considers it a branch of archaeology. Such a specific topic is difficult to pursue, especially with a full Hopkins courseload.
However, senior Veronica Jordan-Davis, a Public Health Studies and Near Eastern Studies double major from Princeton, N.J., was able to explore Egyptology and quench her curiosity as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. Jordan-Davis Woodrow Wilson project examines the nature of ancient Egyptian relationships. In an email conversation with The News-Letter, she discusses her interest in her field, her travels, her interviews, the results of her project and her Hopkins experience.
The News-Letter (N-L): What is your Woodrow Wilson project? How did you become interested in this topic?
Jordan-Davis (VJD): I am looking at what can be determined about the nature of ancient Egyptian relationships from the artifacts they left behind in the archaeological record. The relationships I am examining range from familial ties to lovers, spouses and crushes to close friendships.
I have been interested in Egyptology for a decade, and was interested in this aspect of ancient Egypt since it has not been written about before. Despite the fact that the ancient Egyptians lived 3000 years ago, much of their lives have similarities to our own - long friendships are valued, attractive young men and women were lusted over and significant others were cherished.
N-L: What was the most interesting or unexpected thing that happened to you while conducting your research?
VJD: Through my Woodrow Wilson grant, I was able to travel to Europe to view certain artifacts in person and to interview Egyptology scholars and curators.
I had previously traveled throughout Egypt before receiving the grant. The experience of traveling, often alone, enabled me to learn more and grow as a person.
N-L: Who has influenced or inspired you throughout conducting this research?
VJD: My mentor, Dr. Betsy Bryan has helped me tailor my research project. Also, Dr. David Silverman of UPenn also helped me focus on aspects of my project that had not been previously researched. I also greatly valued interviewing the scholars I met abroad who shared their thoughts on my thesis, including Dr. Baines of Oxford.
N-L: What was your biggest challenge throughout the project?
VJD: Not so much a challenge, but, due to scheduling issues, I was not able to meet with two Egyptologists I had wanted to.
N-L: Do you plan on further studying this topic?
N-L: What do you do other than the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and what else are you involved in on campus?
VJD: I founded a social justice organization in 2009 called Identity, and have been President of the group since then. I also tutor refugee children in Baltimore through the Refugee Action Project, and serve on its Executive Board.
I am also the Editor-in-Chief of Zeniada, the oldest literary arts magazine on campus.
N-L: What advice would you give to freshmen currently applying for the Woodrow Wilson?
VJD: I would recommend choosing a topic that is doable in the three years you would have in the program, and which will keep you inspired throughout that time.
N-L: What's the biggest thing you've learned about yourself as a result of this experience as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow?
VJD: I have learned (and perhaps become) more independent throughout the course of this project. Being entrusted to complete your own thesis and research coming into Hopkins gave me a lot of responsibility.
Also, traveling, communicating with others in different languages and interacting with the best scholars in Egyptology increased my confidence and independence.
The Woodrow Wilson Program gave me the opportunity to both challenge myself academically and also to expand my horizons through my travel experiences. It has added tremendously to my collegiate experience and my life goals.