The Applied Anthropology Laboratories (AAL) is an outreach arm of the Department of Anthropology. The AAL provides a full range of cultural resource management (CRM) and research services. Our professional staff is experienced in all levels of field survey, excavation, analysis, and curation. Our staff specializes geoarchaeology (geochemistry, geophysics, soil micromorphology, etc.), spatial analysis, and a variety of other research specialties. We assist communities, government agencies, and industry in the integration of archaeological research with community and economic development. We work closely with our partners to meet their needs from project inception through completion.

With more than 60 years combined experience in Midwestern archaeology, our staff offers extensive qualifications in completing compliance and research projects and meeting state, federal, and professional guidelines. We also conduct cutting edge scientific research in anthropology, with research funding from the National Science Foundation, National Parks Service, Division of Historic Preservation, and Archaeology, Ohio History Connection, and others.

We work with consulting engineers, private developers, small towns and large cities, state and federal agencies, descendant communities, schools, students, historical societies, researchers, and others on a variety of applied archaeology services, scientific research, educational, and other service activities.

Mission Statement and Strategic Vision: Learn. Work. Discover.

The AAL staff and Advisory Board has worked to hone our mission and direction to increase both external revenue generated and the depth and breadth of hands-on opportunities for students. Further, we strive to embody the entrepreneurial spirit of the Centennial Commitment (18 by ’18) and help to make BSU the model 21st Century Public Research University. We have also undergone a significant realignment in our aims since our previous mission statement was drafted. With this in mind, we have updated our mission statement to provide clear direction to guide all of our activities and better represent what we do day-to-day in the AAL. This new mission statement provides a strategic roadmap for the growth of AAL as a Knowledge Unit, and guidance on building the BSU and AAL brand.


The Applied Anthropology Laboratories (AAL) in the Department of Anthropology at Ball State University seeks to inspire and prepare Anthropology students for successfully engaging the modern workforce with an entrepreneurial spirit to push themselves, the discipline, and their employers to contribute positively to our globalized society.


The mission of AAL is to expand student education beyond the classroom through practical experience in the application of technical and scientific Anthropological knowledge. We aim to be a nationally recognized, student-centered, community-focused outreach unit that combines education and research with practical, hands-on work experiences to provide high quality, professional services to our partners and communities. While advancing our collective understanding of the human condition, we build interpersonal and management abilities while encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset with confidence to pursue new opportunities and solutions in applying an Anthropological understanding to the practice and problems of our world.

Goals: #LearnWorkDiscover

  1. Learn. Promote the value of anthropology and archaeology as STEM research and education.
  2. Work. Combine standard and innovative approaches to assist communities, government agencies, and industry in the integration of cultural preservation with community economic development.
  3. Discover. Become a nationally recognized leader in student-centered research and public service

Alignment with Ball State Strategic Plan Performance Metrics


3. Provide Innovative and Entrepreneurial Education

AAL is an integral component of the educational mission of the Department of Anthropology providing experiences that reinforce classroom learning. Our focus is on entrepreneurial experience for our student employees. Students work with staff and diverse clients to find creative solutions to real-world problems all while gaining on-the-job training for their career in their chosen field.

5. Enhance Postgraduation Career Preparation

As indicated above, our mission is to provide our student with real marketable experiences, and allowing them to work with future employers while meeting client and agency needs as part of an AAL project. Career preparation is one of our great strengths.


8. Enhance Cultural Value and Quality of Life

Quality of place is linked to quality of life, and cultural value in your hometown is a key component of the equation. AAL contributes to development and preservation of cultural value in a number of ways. First, directly through our CRM contracts we are tasked with rigorously identifying properties of cultural value that contribute to the fabric of the community. Second, AAL assists numerous communities in the development and planning activities through our CRM contracts, creatively finding ways for our partners and clients to meet their obligations and keeping developments on track. We also work more intensively and directly with local Muncie and Delaware County organizations in the development of and evaluation of cultural value. We have worked with the Muncie-Delaware County EDA, collaborated with the Delaware County Historical Society, consulted for the Delaware County Commissioners, contributed to the public review of the Mounds Lake environmental assessment and the draft evaluation of the Mounds Greenway proposal, and contributed to many other public and private ventures aimed at building quality of place, cultural value, and quality of life.

9. Establish a Strategic Statewide Impact

AAL is involved in cultivating a statewide impact in numerous ways. Our CRM services aid clients and communities in all 92 of Indiana’s counties. We have conducted grant-funded research in most regions of Indiana, and continue to nurture relationships with our partner communities to encourage an appreciation of history and an ethic of preservation through public dissemination of research results. We have given recent public presentations in Blackford, Montgomery, Jay, Newton, Dearborn, Hamilton, Delaware, Marion, and Madison counties. Our efforts not only help to advertise the BSU brand, but also focus on enhancing cultural value and quality of place for all Hoosiers.

A Model 21st Century Public Research University

AAL has advanced this goal considerably since 2009 when our operation model strategically shifted to become holistically student oriented. Prior to 2009, the ARMS staff had produced a total of five peer-reviewed publications in 30 years (1 every 6 years), with most of their research going into the grey literature, a Reports of Investigation (ROI) series of limited availability and distribution, and un-reviewed publications. Since 2009, AAL-funded research and the personal research of staff have resulted in 13 peer-reviewed publications in addition to the continued production of the ROI series, and continued contribution to the grey literature for contract projects. While the ARMS publications were primarily book chapters of limited distribution, AAL staff have published in the top-ranked international journals in Anthropology and Archaeology, in addition to local and regional journals, and book chapters. Recognition of our expertise has been codified in staff being requested as peer-reviewers for National Science Foundation proposals, and several regional, international, and interdisciplinary journals (e.g., Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Radiocarbon, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

This transition is further underlined by the enormous change in our funding ratio of grants to service contracts. The original ARMS model was primarily contract based; since 2010, the AAL has maintained a contract business while dramatically increasing the proportion of grant funding (Figure 2). This has been accomplished by diversifying our projects and tailoring proposals to a variety of local, regional, and nationally competitive funding agencies. With this new focus, we have successfully competed for grants from federal agencies, including the Department of Anthropology’s first two National Science Foundation grants for a total of over $300,000. This transition to a productive research unit has taken place amidst a stark rise in both the number of students involved in the AAL, and the number of student hours spent conducting research and service to the community. This strategic change in focus has led to better training for students, better research by staff, and generated over $1.5 million in external funding within the last three years. In short, the transition from ARMS to AAL has created a very strong research program, recognized as a standout in the region. This recognition is evidenced by the growing breadth of geographic regions from which the Department of Anthropology is able to recruit high quality graduate students.

12. Enhance State and National Recognition

The reorganized Knowledge Unit has taken many large steps to build a recognized brand, both in training students and in producing high quality research. Our publications have increased tenfold since the AAL transformation with over 80 citations since 2011. Our staff and Research Fellows are securing highly competitive grants. Our scholarship has brought us recognition regionally and internationally. Specifically, our new emphasis on applied geochemistry has garnered attention from international scholars through personal communication and dozens of citations in international and interdisciplinary journals. We are also recognized in the region as one of the best institutions for practical training at the Master’s level due to the work of the AAL and our commitment to including students on all of our dozens of projects.

13. Enhance the Role and Impact of Graduate Education

As the discipline of Archaeology and the job market for Archaeologists has gradually changed over the last 30 years, a Master’s degree in Anthropology has become the most marketable degree. The academic job market is flooded with Ph.D.’s, while a MA in archaeology is in high demand. Most of these jobs are in conducting CRM or similar work. This career niche is where AAL contributes the most to the educational endeavors of the Department of Anthropology. Our graduate assistants get rich, hands-on experience in the real work of applied archaeology. The hundreds of hours our MA students accrue in supervisory experience, laboratory analysis, fieldwork, and technical report production puts them head and shoulders above their competition straight out of graduate school and contributes directly establishing their requisite professional credentials. This experience drives home the impact of their MA, and leads directly to the beginning of a successful career in the industry. The MA program in the Department of Anthropology is unique in that these opportunities, through the AAL, are available to all of our students. No other regional or peer institution offers a similar quantity of relevant training opportunities to prepare students for the world beyond the classroom.

14. Enhance the Research Profile

The reorganization of ARMS to become AAL and the hiring of new staff has greatly increased the research profile of the AAL and the Department of Anthropology. While maintaining the local and regional grant focus of ARMS, AAL has expanded to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in nationally competitive federal grants from a variety of funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Park Service. The AAL and the Department of Anthropology are much more visible in national and international research networks than ever before. We also actively engage in regional and national conferences to promulgate both the robust research, and the high quality of the work our students perform in service of our grants and contracts. AAL staff are conducting cutting-edge research in a number of areas from Hopewell interaction networks, to Indian Wars and Northwest Territory battlefields and forts, to the appropriate use of radiometric assays in the reconstruction of the timing and tempo of prehistoric cultural change, to the geochemical legacies of Native American land use strategies and their impact on modern farmers. In these efforts we are collaborating with scholars from many regional institutions and several departments within the University.