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Elena López ’12: Digging into Student Life at F&M

A profile of Elena López ’12 is Part I of “Faces of the Class of 2012,” a series on the academic and extracurricular interests of graduating seniors.

  • Elana Lopez '12
  • Elena López ’12 had a wide-ranging undergraduate experience, from several international excursions to a study of artifacts buried near the main steps of Shadek-Fackenthal Library. (Photo by Tim Brixius)

Hometown: Mountainside, N.J.
Academic Majors: Environmental Studies and Anthropology

Over the past four years, Elena López ’12 has done her share of “digging” into student life at Franklin & Marshall College. The native of New Jersey is a member of numerous extracurricular clubs, a leader in the College House system and an active participant in student government.

But it was the “digging” undertaken by others that sparked a research project López conducted in the fall of 2010. Earlier that year, construction workers on campus unearthed a surprise discovery during the installation of the brick patio in front of Shadek-Fackenthal Library: the remnants of domestic glassware and ceramics about 12 inches below the surface.

In her “Archaeological Methods” course with Associate Professor of Anthropology Mary Ann Levine, López explored the mysteries in the ground near the library’s front steps.

“Professor Levine gave me a box of glass bottles and shards,” López said. “I wanted to find out when the artifacts were deposited outside the library, and why. I talked to Professor [David] Schuyler, [Director of Grounds] Ted Schmid and Professor Levine. I also went to Smithgall’s Pharmacy and asked about the time period of the bottles. It was so much fun to go out and do oral histories. I really got into it.”

López concluded that the artifacts originated from the 1880s through the Great Depression era. The bottles may have been part of backfill used during the construction of the library in the 1930s—possibly the remains from F&M’s Harbaugh Hall, which was demolished in 1900.

The project was just one highlight of López’s wide-ranging experiences at F&M. She journeyed to Tibet in 2010 as part of “Chinese Life and Culture,” a travel course led by Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology Monica Cable. She also took part in F&M’s alternative winter break to Guatemala in 2011. López traces her interest in anthropology and foreign culture to her parents, who are both Spanish immigrants. “I’ve always had a dual culture, and I’ve been exposed to many cultures,” López said.

When she wasn’t traveling to far-flung destinations, López was a champion of F&M’s efforts in sustainability and environmental stewardship. She was a leader in the student-run Environmental Action Alliance and worked in the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment, where she helped organize events such as Sustainability Week and the annual Trashion Show, in which students design and model fashion made from discarded material. She served as vice president of F&M’s Diplomatic Congress in 2011-12 and won a Gray Scholarship at F&M for her academic strength, leadership ability and strong moral character.

But topping López’s list of activities is Ultimate Frisbee, or simply “Ultimate.” She will always remember the road trips with teammates, the spirit trophies, and practices in Buchanan Park that were part of her Ultimate experience. She said she gained valuable leadership experience as captain of the team from her sophomore to senior years.

“Ultimate Frisbee was my most defining activity at F&M,” López said. “I came out and fell in love with it instantaneously. It’s very spirited and competitive. My favorite thing about it is that it’s such an interesting culture. Maybe that’s the anthropologist in me.”