Our Vision: A Reserve without Boundaries
In developing countries scholars as well as economic, civic, and government leaders face two critical challenges. The first concerns how to explore the archeological treasures of great civilizations without doing damage to current and future material culture and living communities. The second concerns how to promote archeological research and educational tourism in a way that protects fragile ecosystems from unplanned urban and rural development. While internationally there is a growing consensus about these threats to both living communities and ecological treasures, to date few models have been developed or tested to meet this challenge. A new model is needed before these cultural assets are destroyed beyond the ability of countries to study, preserve, and restore them.
At Millsaps, we believe that in order to cultivate the intellectual and psychological stamina that today's leadership demands, two conditions must be met: (1) students must become deeply engaged in a particular challenge that is relevant and meaningful to them (2) students must be placed in complex, demanding situations which they have not encountered before. In this environment, students can discover what they are made of, dig deeply into themselves, and reflect on their life experiences and studies in a larger context. Here too, while there is significantconsensus that these competencies are needed, there is a remarkable shortage of experiences specifically designed to cultivate these skills in undergraduate students.
The Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve and the major archeological site on the reserve will help address both challenges by providing an opportunity to preserve, manage, and conduct cutting-edge interdisciplinary research at an archeological site of an endangered ecosystem. The reserve will provide unusual opportunities for interdisciplinary study in archeological, environmental, and cultural inquiry as well as varied educational and community partnerships.
The reserve will address the challenge of pursuing archeological research while protecting current ecosystems and living communities by removing the traditional boundaries of biological, geological, historical archeological, and social science research and creating innovative community partnerships. While faculty and students will be deeply involved in this initiative, ultimately this program is designed to model a community of learners made up of local civic, cultural, and educational leadership who are committed to addressing complex cultural and ecological issues.
By integrating archeology, cultural preservation, and ecology, the reserve will create a new concept of conservation, tourism, and economic development from which students, scholars and local communities will benefit.