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From Disney to Digging: Mason Shrader

by Web on November 28, 2018

When Mason Shrader discovered a Millsaps College professor who shared his love of all things Disney, he knew that was a good sign.

“When I walked into Dr. George Bey’s office for the first time and saw all his Disney memorabilia, I asked him if he was a Disney fan,” Shrader said. “What was supposed to be a 30-minute visit ended up being an hour and a half conversation about our mutual obsession with Disney and its relevance to anthropology. I had found a professor that seemed to have the exact same interests as me. I made my decision to come to Millsaps then and there.”

Since enrolling at Millsaps, Shrader has found several professors, whom he now considers mentors, and made numerous friends with similar interests.

A senior, Shrader is majoring in both Greek and Roman studies and anthropology and earning a minor in archaeology. He plans to become a college professor.

“Ever since high school, I’ve thought that the best way to start making the world a better place is to understand people and the best way to start understanding people is to understand their culture,” he said. “Anthropology studies culture, so I believe that studying anthropology will ultimately help me make the world a better place.

“I’ve always enjoyed studying the ancient world, but it wasn’t until I took Heritage with Dr. David Yates (assistant professor of Greek and Roman studies) that I learned just how much ancient culture, especially Greco-Roman culture, has influenced our modern Euro-American values and norms.

“By taking more Greek and Roman classes with Dr. Yates and Dr. (Jennifer) Lewton-Yates, along with archaeology classes with Dr. Bey, I soon learned that in order to understand people’s culture, you have to learn the ancient roots of that culture. You can find the ancient world in our politics, religion, some gender norms, and even our notions of ability and disability (I’m writing an honors thesis on that last one). I discovered that I am passionate about helping people learn about and deconstruct these oftentimes problematic ancient roots. Thus, I became a Greek and Roman studies major.”

Shrader has studied at Kaxil Kiuic, the 4,500-acre biocultural reserve in Yucatan, Mexico owned by the College. He spent about six weeks there processing archaeological lab data.

"I did mostly ceramic analysis work with Betsy Kohut, the lab director at the archaeological site,” he said. “We processed and classified all the new shards of pottery that the field team brought in every day. We would organize them by type of clay and shape of pot, and then we would try to reassemble whole vessels from the broken pottery. You would be surprised with how many cool things archaeologists can deduce from people's broken pottery. We can tell the time period the pots were made, what the pots were made of, what the pots were being used for, and possibly even where the pots came from if they were traded.”

Last summer, Shrader attended a bio-archaeological field school in Minorca, Spain, and excavated burials of a fourth century Christian necropolis.

“I was part of the field team which excavated and then analyzed several tombs in the necropolis," he said. "Our job was to excavate as much of a burial as we could and then work with bio-archaeologists to deduce the sex, age, ability, and sometimes disease of the skeletons we found. I learned some fascinating things about fourth century Christian burial practices, and even found three skulls and a full skeleton! It is a morbid topic perhaps to non-archaeology nerds, but we get really excited about that kind of thing.”

Shrader considers his experience at Millsaps transformative.

“Via my relationships with teachers and peers alike, I have been able to discover what I am most passionate about," he said. "The Millsaps student body has shown me not only how to be a better advocate for my own people group, but also how to be an ally to all socially marginalized groups.”

An advocate for accessibility, Shrader serves on the College’s Diversity Council.

“As a man with cerebral palsy, I have been acutely aware since the time I learned to walk that the world is largely not built with people like me in mind,” he said. “Navigating a world that makes most of its places without any sort of way for you to get in can be incredibly demoralizing. I do what I can to fix that for people. I am the disabled student representative, which means that whenever I see a concern I think could affect disabled students in some way, I would bring it to the attention of the council and we would work to address it.”

Shrader serves as a resident assistant for a residence hall, is president of the Classics Club, a member of the Sociology/Anthropology Club, and is involved with Wesley Connexion.

After graduation, Shrader plans to work for a year in the Disney College Program or to teach Latin in a high school, and then to return to school to pursue a doctorate in classical archaeology.