With the collaborative help of the late Jerome Kersey, famed former Lancer and NBA veteran, an anonymous donor to the Longwood Institute of Archaeology and the Cormier Honors College, Longwood cheerleader Tatianna Griffin ’18 experienced the thrill of a lifetime this past summer.
Griffin, a member of the Honors College and a senior anthropology major from Waldorf, Maryland, attended the highly regarded summer program in forensic anthropology at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“I wouldn’t have been able to go without the funding,” said Griffin, a four-year member of the Longwood cheerleading team. My parents are putting my sister and me through college right now, so, when I originally told them about the program, they had to say, ‘I’m sorry, but, if they can’t pay, then you can’t go.’
“Without the scholarship, I would probably be switching my major right now,” she added. [The program] was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
First, an anonymous donor to the Institute of Archaeology committed substantial funding to support Griffin’s participation in the program. Then the Honors College committed $1,000 to the effort. Further discussions about how to provide maximum support led to the Department of Athletics, which awarded Griffin a $2,500 scholarship given by NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers in memory of the life and career of Kersey.
Kersey, who spent 17 seasons in the NBA, made a name for himself through selfless involvement in the community, including his post-retirement career as a Trail Blazers community ambassador. The scholarship was designated for a Cormier Honors College student who best embodies several of Kersey’s traits: working hard, being kind to others and giving back to the community.
'Without the scholarship, I would probably be switching my major right now.'TATIANNA GRIFFIN ’18
“The Mercyhurst program is a life-changing experience in archaeological field research,” said Dr. Brian Bates ’92, professor of anthropology and director of the archaeology institute. Bates handpicked Griffin to become Longwood’s first student to enroll in the Mercyhurst program based on her well-rounded student experience, superior GPA in anthropology and her desire to pursue a career in the field of forensic anthropology.
During the program, Griffin gained hands-on experience in a range of procedures, including creating grids outside crime scenes; conducting experiments in human toxicology; and learning the basics of biological profile and trauma analysis. The work took place alongside numerous professionals in the field, including a Pennsylvania state trooper and an anthropologist from the Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, she met with numerous fire death investigators.
“It’s a big deal for a student to go to that program, particularly a student of Tatianna’s caliber,” Bates said. “She’s an exceptional student and wants to go to grad school to get her Ph.D. in forensic anthropology. It’s put her in a very strong position to apply to graduate school because any program in the country will know of the Mercyhurst program.”