Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As a professor of archaeology in the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Vin Steponaitis studies the history of North Carolina.

“I’m trained as an archaeologist and throughout my career I’ve worked in the American south,” Dr. Steponaitis said. “When I meet someone and I tell them that I’m an archaeologist, the first thing they assume is that I dig somewhere in Egypt or Mesopotamia or maybe Mexico or Peru. And often people are surprised to hear that I dig right here in the South.

“It’s really an extraordinary thing. The United States is different from most other first world countries. Most people are not aware of the ancient history of the place where we live. They’re not aware that people have been living here for more than 15,000 years.”

Through his work, Dr. Steponaitis finds traces of buildings, tools, and food from ancient civilizations. He uses all of this data to reconstruct how people lived in the past.

“One project and I’m really excited about that we’re working on right now is a virtual museum called Ancient North Carolinians,” Dr. Steponaitis said.

“This is a web portal that essentially brings North Carolina archaeology to life. It contains videos, articles, photographs, and all sorts of information about important archeological sites in North Carolina and it illustrates a diversity of Indian peoples that lived here in the past and whose descendants still live here today.”

Listen to part one of the interview with Dr. Steponaitis:

Along with his duties in the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Steponaitis serves as the elected secretary of Carolina’s faculty. In that role, he sets the agenda for the meetings of the 90 member faculty council and makes sure the meetings stay on schedule.

“One way to describe what we do is by analogy. So faculty governance at UNC, we’re the Starship Enterprise. The chair of the faculty would be Captain Kirk and my role, the secretary, is like Scotty. I keep the wheels of faculty governance turning. I make sure that the Enterprise moves and does what it’s supposed to do.”

Much of the challenge revolves around figuring out how to structure things so the meetings last no longer than two hours.

“The key is to get 90 members of faculty council through what are often complicated issues in a relatively short amount of time. We’ve had a lot of contentious issues of late and faculty come in concerned that we handle these issues in the right way.

“There’s often debate. We’ve had some really interesting debates about resolutions that were passed recently with many amendments coming from the floor. But in the end, I think we do a pretty good job of coming to a reasonable consensus.

Listen to part two of the interview with Dr. Steponaitis: